By Harold Cardenas (LJC)
HAVANA TIMES — Hollywood wants to film in Cuba and it can’t. Less and less US productions are coming to the island since the second semester of last year. There is no official negative response, projects just go unanswered.
The authorities fear that the 82nd Airborne Division will arrive in Havana through culture, joins the lists of mistakes made in past productions. So their solution is to say no or to avoid responding to anyone who requests access. Well, for such an educated country, let’s just say that this isn’t very polite.
Cuba went from being the ugly duckling to the swan, from Cinderella to the princess, from the ugly chick at school to the girl who everyone wants. And Hollywood loves these stories. The only thing they like more than fantasy or personal development is the forbidden, and Cuba is that too.
That’s how part of the biggest blockbuster of 2017 was shot in Havana. Then other sequels became interested in shooting here: Transformers, Mission Impossible, even complete series were put forward to the Cuban authorities. Some managed to get partial authorization, others didn’t, now less.
Culture has an implicit ideology tied to it and every cultural product has political values. However, when I see someone referring to the Cuban people as naive, manipulable and vulnerable to the North, I don’t understand how the generation that was influenced the most by capitalism could carry out a Revolution in Cuba. If there is a Latin American people who have been trained to deal with mental colonialism, it’s the Cubans. Underestimating our capacity to culturally assimilate something or to prepare us for half a century and then be afraid of this fight, is absurd and suicidal.
Fast and the Furious 8 was our litmus test with Hollywood. The movie is awful, if only Martin Scorsese had come instead, but it created jobs and depicted a Havana that would attract tourism. We had never had a film production of this magnitude here before, not only in terms of profits but also for providing us with unprecedented technical experience. Today, Cuba could have the luxury of taking on international productions without the need for financial incentives, but passing up on 15 minutes of fame because of fear, will prove expensive.
It’s in our best interests that movies are shot in Cuba. When they shoot in other countries pretending it’s here, cliches are only reinforced. And I’m tired of seeing scenes of an alleged Havana full of violence, soldiers and machine guns. I go out onto the balcony and I can’t see it.
It’s not bending over to the industry where dreams are made and billboards are lit up, but it is about learning to live with this industry, because it’s what Engels would call “objective reality”. While it’s true that filming permits for Fast and the Furious 8 came through much faster than they do for our own productions, this doesn’t reflect Hollywood’s domination, it’s simply proof that Cuban film needs to be updated, a law which regulates it needs to be created as well as a promotion fund. If it were the ‘60s, Fidel would have already sat down with filmmakers and ironed out the details, but there’s no point in living in the past.
The greatest problem was logistics and communication. Closed off roads, diverted traffic and unjustified inconvenience. It’s normal for a country without experience in Hollywood blockbusters to have problems coordinating the first time round. However, receiving criticism for not giving explanations to the general public is unnecessary: how many millions did the movie make and how will they be used? As long as public officials fail to understand that their roles are public, that this isn’t any funny old word, and report back to the people, which isn’t voluntary but is stated in the job role, we will continue on like this. Receiving criticism when it could have been applause.
The Film industry regularly takes delight in disaster. Our films seems to be stuck on Havana’s marginal characters, ruined facades and dysfunctional families. Fast and the Furious shows the industry’s cliches, but its production team came looking for Cuba’s beauty and not poverty-porn, that’s a point in its favor. Whoever wants to be realistic in future national productions needs to show Cuba, the crowded inadequate housing in Central Havana, microbrigade buildings and mansions in Siboney. It should show rationed bread and champagne, because we have both.
We have been making reports about the impacts of the US blockade on our economy for years now. Today, people are interested in coming here to film. Maybe some of the productions that are being put forward have bad intentions or want to falsify our reality, others don’t.
The fact is though that we have been shutting the door in Hollywood’s face recently. It would be good to hear why this decision has been made and for how long it will last. We would be delighted to publish the reasons for this, not everything is prejudice, sometimes there are well-founded arguments that we never learn about.
But, one senses that once again we’ve thrown out the baby with the bath water, denying access because of easiness or old dogmas. Who is presenting this report? Who is weighing up the impact of our mistakes? Farewell Hollywood or see you soon?