HAVANA TIMES — The new relationship between the US and Cuba opened the door to Hollywood productions filming on the island and the hiring of local support staff.
The current filming of “Fast and Furious 8” in the Cuban capital has been a major event, with advantages and disadvantages depending on each person’s perspective.
The following is a report on the development of the filming, arrangements with locals and inconveniences to the population on the streets used.
Fast and Furious 8
By Ramon Peralta (Progreso Semanal)
A pedicab driver had enough after three days of being forbidden to cross Reina Street. He was heard shouting: “see how the Communists sell out to the Americans.” The same state of opinion is heard in different sectors of society, from the most humble trapped in poverty, to better positioned sophisticated intellectuals. What unites them perhaps is a virtual class consciousness, a long-learned anti-imperialism from school and television, but also perhaps because they are not part of the business.
“Havana taken by the English,” says a woman while watching a brutal helicopter flying above the roofs bordering the El Curita park in Centro Habana. Conquered, apparently without barriers, by one of the most innovative, stable and colonizing industries of Western capitalism. Truck Trailers, vans and cars and motorcycle ramps expose the demon exorcised so many times. Universal City Studios seems incredibly at home.
“This is a sprint,” says Fernando, “one feels ready for more than just closing streets, but with the money I will be able to buy a desktop computer to edit videos, I also want to pay an incentive to the boys at Etecsa [the government telecommunications co.] for them to transfer my landline, and then maybe even buy me a bicycle.”
More than 200 production assistants, mostly young people and professionals, -film industry workers, philologists, actors, etcetera, close streets and keep the population away from the dangerous racing circuits. The payment received at the end of these 10 days will mean a considerable boost, but for a very narrow sector of society. This “bitter pill” is equivalent to two years’ average salary. So Gabriel, who has moved to a friend’s house to not use his grandparents little water stored in a pair of tanks, plans to buy a water pump and solve the critical health problem in their apartment in Central Havana.
The expenses are projected and can vary depending on the best incentive and control tool that capitalism has made in Hollywood: the payment of overtime. “As they pass the 12 hours laid down in the contract and overtime begins I get excited,” claims Yosvani, who began to desire a Niko camera with an interchangeable lens. Likewise if the worker does not give it their all -and this is very possible in Cuba, they can be told that they proved too lazy to deserve overtime.
Yosvani’s plans tensed as they ended the lengthy and laborious action scenes with doubles, when the true Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michel Rodriguez) began to appear on location. With the stars, the shooting decreased along with the overtime. However his expectations grew so much with the overtime that he decided not to give up the dream and borrow to get it.
The contracts were signed a month earlier with a Mexican company related to Universal. The Cubans say they did not receive a copy of the document. Every man or woman also signed a neat and clever confidentiality clause depriving them of the right to defend themselves, or even to make some sort of public complaint should they feel they were mistreated or abused.
Millions of dollars will enter the country directly or indirectly from this business, but it is certainly not legally equipped to do so, at least with a clear conscience and a minimum of seriousness.
Other issues failed as well: several young employees confirmed, at the risk of going to jail or paying a huge fine, the rumor that the State company Palco was dismissed for failing to meet the quality requirements in its contract for catering lunches. Instead, production assistants received an expense allowance and ate in neighboring private cafes.
All the small businesses on Reina Street were appeased with incentives to stop working and some were used by the team for their bathrooms. The silent complicity and cooperation they showed, ran contrary -to the sometimes bellicose neighbors, or outraged intellectuals- and was similar to the silence the young production assistants showed when someone whose passage was blocked yelled “sell outs.”