Private Project


Frenemies is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of the close yet conflicted relationship between the United States and Cuba from the 1950s to the present. How much longer can this small Caribbean island survive the longest embargo in history?

  • Mirella Martinelli
    Land of the Sea, Oppression, The Splash, The Inventor, New Trends: The Post-War Period, Envy, Post-Modernism, Panic
  • Mirella Martinelli
    Land of the Sea, Oppression, The Splash, The Inventor, Envy, Post-Modernism, Panic
  • Mirella Martinelli
    Land of the Sea, Extingue!, Envy, Rota ABC, Hip-Hop SP, Cara Pálida, Panic, Legalize Love, InstantVideo
  • Elizabeth Coffman
    Flannery, Venice is Thinking, Souls and Sonnets, A Gathering of Strangers, Veins in the Gulf, Long Distance, One More Mile: A Dialogue on Nation-Building
  • Carolina Sittrin, Collin Laverty, Margaret Smith, Brian Berry, Steve Arvey, Eloisa Abislaiman
    Key Cast
    "main U.S. interviewees"
  • Miguel Coyula
    Key Cast
    "main Cuban interviewee"
    Memories of Overdevelopment, Nadie, Corazon Azul (in production)
  • Lynn Cruz
    Key Cast
    "main Cuban interviewee"
    Nadie, Corazon Azul Corazon Azul (in production)
  • Miguel Coyula
    Memories of Overdevelopment, Nadie, Red Cockroaches
  • Jake Smucker
    Eugene Alexander: The Fashion of Eugene Stutzman
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 26 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 30, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Cuba, United States
  • Language:
    English, Spanish
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Sunscreen Film Festival
    St. Petersburg, FL
    United States
    nominated for best documentary
  • Oklahoma Latino Film Festival
    virtual fest
    United States
  • Latino and Native American Film Festival
    United States
  • Toronto Film Channel
    Toronto, Canada
    February 1, 2021
    Canadian Premiere
    Award Winner
  • Dunedin International Film Festival
    Dunedin, Florida
    United States
    January 16, 2021
    World Premiere
    Audience Award
  • Docs Without Borders Film Festival

    Award of Excellence
  • Impact Docs

    Award of Merit
  • Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema - Land of the Sea
    San Francisco, CA
    United States
    November 5, 1997
    World Premiere
    Opening Night
  • It's All True International Documentary Film Festival - Land of the Sea
    São Paulo
    March 14, 2019
    Brazil Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Theatrical - Land of the Sea
    São Paulo
    September 1, 2019
    6 weeks
  • Broadcast - Land of the Sea
    November 1, 2019
    TV Cultura
  • New Directors New Films - Extingue!
    New York, NY
    United States
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Tampere International Film Festival - Oppression
    March 10, 1994
    Official Selection - Special Prize of the Jury
  • Festival de Cinema de Brasília - Oppression
    December 11, 1993
    Brazilian Premiere
    Official Selection - Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing
  • Canal + France - Oppression
    June 4, 1994
  • Canal + Spain - Oppression
    August 6, 1994
Distribution Information
  • Warner - Land of the Sea
    Country: Brazil
    Rights: Video / Disc
Director Biography - Mirella Martinelli

Mirella Martinelli is an award-winning Brazilian film director, screenwriter, producer and editor who lives in Florida now as a US citizen. Her numerous awards include Best Film, Best Director (RioCine Film Festival and Brasilia Film Festival), and Best Editing (American Cinema Editors 1997). Mirella participated at the first Sundance Screenwriters Lab that was held in Brazil, with her original screenplay “Goodbye Mom”. Most of her 35-year film career has been dedicated to documentaries, including Land of the Sea, a feature-length funded by the Rockefeller and McArthur Foundations. Mirella Martinelli worked as a film professor at the University of São Paulo, Universidade Anhembi-Morumbi, Columbia College Chicago and the University of Tampa. Frenemies is Mirella's first film made in the U.S where she now lives as a citizen.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Frenemies is a film for a cause: lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The film won the Audience Award at its first public festival screening at the Dunedin International Film Festival, January 2021.

This documentary is constructed from the point-of-view that history can be told by the common folk who live it; history is not a privilege of only historians. US visitors to Cuba, Cuban Americans and Cubans living on the island discuss politics, history and economy in this Latinx study of the United States relations with Cuba. Presenting a critical perspective on both governments, Frenemies blends archival and contemporary footage. The film interweaves music with personal stories in a lively exposé of this blatant violation of international law.

Filmmaker Mirella Martinelli is now a Florida resident. “Like many Latinx whose heritages were marked by neo-colonial practices, I was born and raised in Brazil and have a Latin-American perspective. I observe how U.S. citizens are influenced by mass media and the political machine providing misconceptions of Cuba. From growing up in Brazil during Operation Condor, to the imprisonment of former Brazilian President Lula, I understand the impacts of neo-colonialism.”

Frenemies rebuilds history and raises contemporary issues with thoughtful discussions on Cuban land reform, education, racial relations, contemporary economics, social struggles and the embargo. Cuban art and artifacts is used to show history through engravings, paintings and sculptures. Life in contemporary Cuba is presented in Frenemies with a warm and dynamic approach, alternating street scenes with visual arts and live music.

Decades of economic isolation have worn out the island and the morale of Cubans who still struggle to keep their sovereignty. The United Nations has voted almost thirty times for the embargo to be lifted. Frenemies bears witness to the embargo’s impact in rising poverty and shortages of many products. The embargo is a human rights issue that affects 11.4 million Cubans living in Cuba, 1.5 million Cuban Americans in Florida and 340,000 in other U.S. states whose families remain in Cuba. Frenemies presents a compelling argument for why the embargo should be lifted.

This documentary will raise questions in the spectators’ minds encouraging audiences to question a political and historical narrative that has been presented in a biased way by mass media and a vocal portion of the political establishment.