Foreign film directors flock to Cuba as isolated island opens up to
GEOFFREY MACNAB Friday 29 May 2015
As film locations go, Cuba has got pretty much everything: a rich and
turbulent history, the faded glamour of its capital Havana and a
world-renowned music scene. But all that, until recently, was out of
bounds to foreign film-makers.
Now, as the Communist country opens up following the "normalisation" of
diplomatic relations between the Caribbean island and its old enemies in
the US, foreign film-makers are rushing to take advantage.
But Hollywood will have to wait. Because of the embargo – imposed by the
Americans – US actors and technicians are still unable to work in Cuba.
However, it will now be easier for documentary film-makers to get around
this and a slew of new films are in the making.
Previous films had also been made about Cubans, whereas more are now
being made about foreigners who are associated with Cuba such as Graham
Greene. Earlier this month, the LA production company Broad Green
Pictures said it was preparing a sequel to the music documentary Buena
Vista Social Club, to be made by British director Lucy Walker. In
Cannes, the London-based film-maker Rosa Bosch has confirmed her plans
for four new films to be made in Cuba through her company Cuba Star.
The first, Havana Autos and Architecture, is being produced in
collaboration with the architect Norman Foster, based on the book he
wrote of the same name with Mauricio Vicent. The film is billed as "a
depiction of a country that is emerging from a time capsule after over
50 years of stubborn survival".
Lord Foster is obsessed with Cuba. "Havana today is like no other
place," he commented. "It's a theatre in which the stage is the street,
the scenery is the facades of the buildings, and the players, who bring
the whole drama to life, are the colourful cars and people."
Cuba is still full of 1950s American cars: Chevrolets, Buicks, Packards,
Studebakers, Lincolns, Oldsmobiles, Cadillac convertibles and the like.
Their owners have fought to preserve them, in spite of a lack of spare,
and to ensure they look as shiny as the day they left the showroom.
"He [Lord Foster] is making a link between the architecture and the
cars," Bosch explains of the feature-doc, which will tell six stories of
owners who keep their cars going "forever and ever". Through the six
stories, the aim is to tell the story of Cuba during its "50 years of
isolation". Shooting is expected in the autumn, with an American
director expected to be confirmed shortly.
Meanwhile, Bosch is also preparing a new feature doc called Churchill
and Cuba, looking at the British political titan's long engagement with
Cuba – and with its cigars. He first visited the country around the time
of the Spanish-American independence war of the late 1890s and, much
later, wrote his Iron Curtain speech on the island, "while running
around in Havana smoking cigars". Bosch describes the film as being
about the "political forming of Churchill", seen from "a slightly
hedonistic, tropical" point of view.
A third Bosch project, yet to be entitled, will explore British novelist
Graham Greene's relationship with Cuba. It will pay particular attention
to Greene's 1958 novel Our Man in Havana and the 1959 film made by Carol
Reed and starring Alec Guinness. Fidel Castro himself visited the film
set during shooting, only a few weeks after overthrowing the Batista regime.
"The stories of Graham Greene in Cuba will surprise a lot of people. The
way he was involved and in a way manipulated by the revolution for
certain purposes is fascinating," Bosch commented.
The fourth of Bosch's Cuban films is about the hell-raising Hollywood
star Errol Flynn's experiences in Cuba in the twilight of his life, when
he was friendly with Castro. He even made his final film there, Cuban
Rebel Girls (1959), which he also scripted. Flynn didn't just come to
Cuba to live it up but became, albeit briefly, a fervent supporter of
Castro. He is also said to have met Che Guevara – a fascinating and
highly unlikely encounter between two very different kinds of icons.
Others are making docs about Hemingway and Cuba. For example, the
Starsky & Hutch star David Soul has been involved in Cuban Soul, a film
in which he helps the Cubans rebuild Ernest Hemingway's long-lost 1955
Chrysler New Yorker, which was found recently in a near ruined condition.
"In terms of doing fiction films, we are still legally some way away,"
Bosch said, explaining the reason for the current focus on documentary
films. "To do a fiction film with US actors is complicated because the
money they are paid would be earned [there] and would break the embargo."
Source: Foreign film directors flock to Cuba as isolated island opens up
to outside world - Americas - World - The Independent -