NEW EVOLUTION CUBA TRAILER & MORE...

Filming the TWO BROTHERS, with Aldo & Ilmar López Gavilán this summer.

Filming the TWO BROTHERS, with Aldo & Ilmar López Gavilán this summer.

Just a quick note to share our brand new trailer for the EVOLUTION CUBA series. You can find it here: https://vimeo.com/176115749. Let us know what you think, and please share with others who might be interested in what we're doing.

We're excited that the series has been invited to participate in IFP's Independent Film Week, a competitive market in New York this September. It's a little like speed dating with festivals, broadcasters, distributors, commissioning editors, and other allies who can help us bring the films home. 

We're still fundraising--most immediately to support the rest of our filming of THE BROTHERS story this fall. We have a rough cut of our first film, THE LENS, and about 60% of the second film shot. Check out our prospectus for details of the status of each of our stories: http://bit.ly/EVOLUTION-CUBA-LOOKBOOK. We welcome introductions to folks who might want to be involved with the project.

In the meantime we're continuing to tell stories of our progress on our blog. Follow along if you are curious: http://www.patchworksfilms.net/blog/.

And we are putting the finishing touches to our long-awaited short WHEEL of LIFE. It should be making its way in the world this fall.

Ken and I are deeply grateful for all the support and cheerleading that has moved the project to this point. 

Adelante.

Marcia

Mixing sound for WHEEL OF LIFE with the remarkably talented Will Storkson.

Mixing sound for WHEEL OF LIFE with the remarkably talented Will Storkson.

June 27, 2016 - A Hot & Productive Day

Day 2 - June 27, 2016

This trip we encountered lots of trouble with the internet (witness the date of this post). Our usual strategy—a hook up via a laptop entrepreneur offering Connectify at our local park, or an internet card near the government routers on La Rampa—failed. So here we are back in the U.S. posting about June 27th.  Our friend, Ilmar Gavilán, featured in THE BROTHERS, explained that the unpredictability of life in Cuba accounts for their musicians' excellent improvisational skills. Life itself is an improvisation. We're trying to perfect ours.

In the morning we met with Angela Salazar, a friend’s sister who works for Witness For Peace, documenting human rights issues throughout Latin America.  She spoke of the trade-offs of the economic shift here, more incremental than a sea change, which offers more opportunity to some but trouble for many. Those who can become cuentapropistas, self employed, have the possibility to earn more, and those who can generate tourist dollars jump to a higher level of privilege and access. But rising prices have a negative effect on those closer to the bottom. There are a record number of tourists this year, and many on the island will experience both the positive (more money) and the negative (more inequality, the selling of the culture).

Connor Gorry, one of the few U.S. citizens who lives here and has a business (the excellent cafe/free library/community center, Cuba Libro), tells us that some of her artist friends are shading their work in the direction of tourists’ preferences. A music repertoire or a painting that appeals to travelers will bring in more cash. Whether this will have a long-term effect on the art here, or simply be a subsidy for creative work remains to be seen.

Lovely to see Oso and Orguidia from WHEEL OF LIFE again--this time with our 20-year-old, Mica along, serving as production assistant.

Lovely to see Oso and Orguidia from WHEEL OF LIFE again--this time with our 20-year-old, Mica along, serving as production assistant.

Joy is still the order of the day here. We had an excellent visit with some of our past collaborators, spending Father’s Day dinner with our driver Javier’s family, followed by a visit to the classic outdoor dance spot, the 1830, where we shook it up a bit with El Oso and his partner Orgjuidia, featured in our recent short film, LA RUEDA DE LA VIDA/THE WHEEL OF LIFE.

Father's Day with our driver Javier Rojas and his dad, Modesto, who drove for us on our first Cuban shoot for HAVANA CURVEBALL, back in 2011.

Father's Day with our driver Javier Rojas and his dad, Modesto, who drove for us on our first Cuban shoot for HAVANA CURVEBALL, back in 2011.

Marilyn Monroe & José Marti grace the same wall in the hip and provocative Fábrica del Arte Cubano in Havana.

Marilyn Monroe & José Marti grace the same wall in the hip and provocative Fábrica del Arte Cubano in Havana.

An evening at the Fábrica de Arte Cubano is always energetic and fascinating. Many of the paintings are excellent and the current show includes several of our favorite Cuban artists, Zaida del Rio, Mabel Poblet, and the photographers Ludmila & Nelson. We also saw an alt music band from the Dominican Republic. While visiting with friends Inti Herrera, a filmmaker who is responsible for the Fábrica’s audiovisual everything, and David and Ernesto Blanco, popular rock musicians, Jon Bon Jovi strolled in. Cuba has become the place where celebrities want to be seen and photographed. This concerns us—while people we spoke to felt happy that Cuba could host The Rolling Stones, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Major Laser earlier this year, they grimaced when we asked about the Kardashians, or the filming of Fast and Furious 8 and The Transformers. They were impressed by the scope of the production but not the quality of the acting (ditto here). The director of The Transformers had never been here before, spent less than 24 hours on the island, did not connect with locals, and offered nothing but a wad of money to the country.

Aldo López-Gavilán after this passionate performance of Rachmaninoff's Concerto #3 in Havana.

Aldo López-Gavilán after this passionate performance of Rachmaninoff's Concerto #3 in Havana.

On the positive side, and there is always much to be positive about when here, we are planning our first shoot with Aldo López-Gavilán, one of our favorite pianists anywhere. Aldo’s father Guido is one of the best conductors you’ve never heard of; his wife Daiana is also a conductor, and this week he is coaching his star student Rodrigo Ameneiro in a competition, composing a score for a new piece by a modern dance choreographer, preparing for a trip abroad, and allowing us to film two days with him and his family. Oh, and ten days ago he played Rachmaninoff's 3rd Concerto to a full house.  It is 45 minutes of tickling, slapping and pounding the keys without stopping—one of the most technically challenging compositions in the Western canon, with complicated fingering, tempo changes, chord progressions, and dynamics.  We learned later that despite Aldo's virtuosity, the piano was slightly out of tune, a challenge in this resource-strapped country. Thanks to the help of our awesome Cuban Line Producer, Claudia Maria Bueno, we have footage of the event, as she gathered our crew and filmed the performance in the Jose Marti Theater in Old Havana.

Our camera rolls tomorrow. Adelante!

 

 

 

  

We Are Back in Havana!

We had an excellent landing in Havana—the first return trip for Mica since he came here in 2011 to deliver baseball gear to the Martin Luther King Center. Our casa  particular [predates Air B n B by a few decades] is in Central Havana, a few blocks from the sea and a short ride to Old Havana in a maquina, a recycled, rebuilt, reanimated American car from the 50s that functions like an affordable Uber pool, plying certain routes in the city.

Ivan Soca, subject of the first film in our series, Evolution Cuba, scooped us up in Aquitania, his car, named after the region bordering Spain and France where the first troubadours sang. Los trovadores are a central theme of Ivan’s work—musicians who write and sing songs of the people, from the people, and for the people. They are storytellers and the soul of their pueblo, of their people.

Fuster

Fuster

Silvio Rodriguez

Silvio Rodriguez

Ivan took us to Jaimanitas, on the outskirts of Havana where the artist Fuster has transformed the area into a Gaudi-like mosaic of beauty and imagination. But tonight we were here to witness a free neighborhood concert by Silvio Rodriguez, a Cuban troubadour famous throughout Latin America. Using his own resources, Silvio invites guest artists to perform with him throughout the island, converting a street into a concert venue, free for all. This was the 75th in the series; Ivan has photographed all of them save for the two performed in Spain and Chile. No T-shirts for sale, no vendors, just a makeshift stage raised a few feet above the street, and the music. After a brief afternoon deluge Frank Delgado, another trovador with a sharp sense of humor took the stage and wowed us. A short set later, Silvio sat down and sang songs that the entire country seems to know—elders, pierced, tattooed and gender nonconforming college students, local workers, and young families, sway, cheer, and sing. Silvio has been writing and singing trovas for 50 years, and while many in the U.S. don’t know his voice, he is one of Latin America’s greatest bards.

View from the rooftop

View from the rooftop

Ivan knows not only the neighborhood, but he knows the rooftops to climb for the best plano general—the wide shot. He knocked on a few doors, introduced himself, and we were invited up.

Not bad for our first half day in Cuba.

Dos Hermanos | Two Brothers — Our Next Story?

Aldo Lopez Gavilan (far right), featured in our upcoming film, with UsherJoshua BellLarisa Martínez- SopranoCarlos VarelaDave Matthews Band, and Smokey Robinson celebrating with the U.S. artist delegation visiting and collaborating in Cuba this week.

Ken interviews El Oso last spring for our short film, LA RUEDA DE LA VIDA /WHEEL OF LIFE.

Ken interviews El Oso last spring for our short film, LA RUEDA DE LA VIDA /WHEEL OF LIFE.

We celebrated Ken's birthday at the most excellent Havana Film Festival New York—a gem of an event —where we had a sneak preview of our new short film, LA RUEDA DE LA VIDA / WHEEL OF LIFE. We shared the screen with a remarkable group of visiting directors and actors from Cuba, and elsewhere in Central and South America, and were delighted to reconnect with Rafael Solis, one of the cinematographers for our upcoming story of photographer, Ivan Soca.

Rafael Solis at work documenting photographer Ivan Soca.

Rafael Solis at work documenting photographer Ivan Soca.

RUEDA DE LA VIDA is our short film tribute to El Oso, one of the founders of casino, the godmother of salsa. El Oso’s charming story reminds us that salsa, thought to be a confluence of Puerto Rican and New York cultures, is rooted in Cuba.  Our screening inspired a group of casineros in the audience to dance in the lobby after the screening.

An inspired audience takes the dancing off the screen and into the theater lobby at the Havana New York Film Festival, where WHEEL OF LIFE previewed.

An inspired audience takes the dancing off the screen and into the theater lobby at the Havana New York Film Festival, where WHEEL OF LIFE previewed.

A highlight of our weekend in New York—Ilmar Gavilan, a Cuban-born violinist living in New York, came to our screening. Ilmar is a violinist with the Harlem String Quartet, and his brother Aldo is one of Cuba’s greatest jazz pianists. We had lunch and drinks with Ilmar, who left Cuba as a teenager to continue his music education in Moscow. That was in 1986.  Although he travels often to see his family, geopolitics have prevented the two virtuoso brothers from touring together in the U.S. Ilmar’s quartet plays a range of music spanning from Mendelssohn to  Billy Strayhorn’s Take the A Train. Aldo, called “a genius, a star” by none other than Chucho Valdés, has a rich creative life in Cuba, but only a few opportunities to play in the US. That will start to change this summer, when he tours with Ilmar and his Quartet, plays with an orchestra in Napa, CA,  and joins Harold López-Nussa, his dear friend (and our series composer) for a date at San Francisco Jazz Center.  We are looking for funding right now to support our telling this story of  two virtuoso brothers, separated by geopolitics, whose lives might finally converge—the third in the (R)evolution Cuba series. We welcome introductions, tax deductible contributions, ideas!

Ilmar Gavilan's Harlem String Quartet, bringing jazz and classical excellence to underserved kids.

Ilmar Gavilan's Harlem String Quartet, bringing jazz and classical excellence to underserved kids.

 

We were lucky to catch Ilmar and the Harlem String Quartet play in Santa Rosa. After Ilmar and I spent the following day appreciating a beautiful San Francisco day. Muir Woods (they don’t make ancient redwoods in Cuba nor in New York), Hawk Hill for a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, some in-car video of the Hyde Street Cable Car, and yes, the Sea Lions at Pier 39. Oh—and delicious food and margaritas at Tommy’s Restaurant in our neighborhood, the Richmond. I had just met Julio, the owner, at an event in Havana—small world!

Ilmar enjoying the Bay Area as we chat about profiling him and his brother, Aldo, in Dos Hermanos / 2 Brothers. 

Ilmar enjoying the Bay Area as we chat about profiling him and his brother, Aldo, in Dos Hermanos / 2 Brothers. 

Meanwhile in Havana, Aldo, the pianist brother toasts with violinist Joshua Bell, after performing together in Havana. Bell was part of a U.S. delegation of artists that included Usher, Dave Matthews and Smokey Robinson. 

Meanwhile in Havana, Aldo, the pianist brother toasts with violinist Joshua Bell, after performing together in Havana. Bell was part of a U.S. delegation of artists that included Usher, Dave Matthews and Smokey Robinson. 

And back at PatchWorks in San Francisco, the footage Ken shot of the Ivan Soca's  story last month has been translated and readied for editing. We start in earnest next Monday. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

LAST SHOOT WITH IVAN SOCA

We started our last day of shooting at the John Lennon park in the Vedado District, where a full-time guard insures that no one steals the steel rimmed green tinted circular glasses mounted on Lennon’s statue. By chance we bumped into someone I admire—Ivan Napoles, cinematographer for Santiago Alvarez, the godfather of Cuban documentary. Ivan was one of the founders of ICAIC, the government institute for filmmakers. He was profiled in Isabel Santos’ beautiful doc, El Pais Que Ya No Existe, (The Country That is No More), which I saw when it played alongside HAVANA CURVEBALL at the Havana Film fest in 2014. The film crosscuts between Ivan’s footage of Vietnam during the war (16mm black and white material he shot in the late 1960’s) and his return visit to the country more than 40 years later. Ivan is a man of many images but few words; Solis, my cinematographer and Isabel’s husband, told me that Isabel spent two years convincing Ivan to participate in her film. Isabel, Solis, Marcia and I will have more to talk about next week in New York, as our film and Isabel’s film are both screening at the Havana NY Film Festival.

Production went well. Claudia Bueno, our Cuban Field Producer, and I prepared a reasonable shooting schedule with built-in breaks, critical for a hot day in Havana. It is a city where a cold drink break at an outdoor cafe is interrupted numerous times by this director, that soundman, this artist coming over to hug and kiss and chat with one or all of our crew members. Several glasses of juice and beer later, (the beer here is tasty and weak), we finished our filming with Ivan Soca, the subject of the first film of our series, (R)Evolution Cuba. That title, by the way, has sparked some good discussions. Several of our stalwart supporters back home are upset that we would appropriate that word for our title, even with the parentheses. Nearly everyone I’ve asked here loves it. A few from the older generation, who have a different relationship with the revolution, think we should find a better title. There is no consensus. Please weigh in with comments.

Ivan teased us on camera with an intro to the project he is developing for the next Havana Biennale (2018), a build-out of his previous work with the symbolism of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It will be mounted between two institutions—one US and the other Cuban. It is fascinating and if he can pull it off, it will be a treasure.

Our final interview with Ivan took place on top of a hill across the bay from the city, with the buildings behind him turning pink and amber at the magic hour. Sergio Muñoz, our sound man, lamented that it is impossible to find a quiet place in Havana, making feature filmmaking a real challenge (but parking here is easy—there’s always a balance). We had to stop many times for trucks and guaguas, the ubiquitous buses that turn sound recordists’ hair gray. After wrapping, we had more ideas, of course, and I made my crew quite hungry while spending the next few hours filming Havana at night. They were game, though, and we celebrated at Melen, Ivan’s favorite restaurant in Miramar. As we walked out around 1:30 AM, Yissey and her band were lighting up the place with her music.

 

 

Done. At least until tomorrow, when I tie up as many loose ends as the day allows. After two weeks, I’ve got my sea legs, and as much as I miss my family, I’ll be sorry to leave.

 

PERSPECTIVES FROM FRIENDS NEW & OLD

Ken's trip is winding down.

Ken's trip is winding down.

Today was a day of sharing stories with old and new friends.  Inti Herrera, filmmaker and one of the directors at the excellent Fábrica de Arte Cubano , took me to lunch at the California Cafe, opened last year by our old pal Shona Baum, formerly of San Francisco. Shona moved here with her Cuban husband Paver and opened the California, an outstanding open air eatery a block from the Malecón (the seawall protecting Havana from the Caribbean) and a few blocks from a public wifi spot. (Call or write me before you come to Havana so I can give you the intel on the California.) Inti and I talked about his university studies (Marxist theory), what it was like to grow up in a family of artists (complicated), the early years of the Fábrica (it just turned two and has become one of the coolest places in Havana, and the world, as far as I’ve experienced), and his time in Spain. He returned after a year or two abroad to create here, became a filmmaker, and produced, among other films, Cuba’s first zombie flick, Juan of the Dead.  Juan is a wicked satire on Cuba, America, and Cuba & America.

Cuba's first zombie cult classic.

Cuba's first zombie cult classic.

Rafael Betancourt’s story is equally rich. He left here as a Peter Pan kid (google it), a US-run operation that convinced Cuban families that their kids would be better off in Miami than in Cuba, in the early 1960’s, a few years after the revolution commenced. In 25 years in the states, he attended school and earned a PhD in Economics before deciding to return to his homeland in 1986 to “participate in the Cuban socialist project.” During the Special Period, so christened by Fidel after the Soviet withdrawal of funds led to nearly a decade of deprivation, there were few clubs and restaurants, as electricity and supplies were short. Rafael held regular jam sessions and salons at his place, and as it turned out, hosted many of the people in our series. A university econ professor holding music sessions at his house—I like that.

Just back from a Cuban music showcase at SXSW, Telmary is back at work in Cuba.

Just back from a Cuban music showcase at SXSW, Telmary is back at work in Cuba.

After seeing Telmary perform her unique mix of soul and hiphop,at a tourist bar above the Plaza Vieja, we had a talk about her life here and in Toronto, where she lived for many years. There were more grants, more resources, but she also returned here after her stretch up north. One of the things she loves about Cuba is that “nobody asks me what I do here, and if they do, they don’t nod silently.” Being an artist here (or anywhere) is not easy, but it is embraced. She shared the frustration of having to perform at said tourist joints for cash, but it does subsidize her creative work. At midnight, when we finished our talk, she rushed off to the Bertold Brecht Theater to perform with Interactivo, the much-loved fusion band that I cannot quite describe. A few days ago, Telmary returned from South By Southwest, where she performed with other Cuban musicians; the day after we spoke, she was off to Varadero, a beach resort a few hours from Havana, to perform again. When I told her that I was exploring artists at this moment of change, she said firmly that the change has been in process the last three years. She is interested in our series, and I hope to see more of her.

Inti, Rafael and Telmary all left and returned. Each has a gestión, a navigation they conduct to continue to create. Despite the outmigration and consistent reports in our press of the difficulty of life here, this place has a magical pull.

COMPLICATIONS & EXPLORATIONS

Words Without Voice, contemporary Cuban art considering the internet's arrival in Cuba, showcased at the Taller Experimental Grafica.

Words Without Voice, contemporary Cuban art considering the internet's arrival in Cuba, showcased at the Taller Experimental Grafica.

Colleagues in the Cuban film world remind me that it’s typical to have regular cancellations and delays. I have definitely shed the “time is money” ethic of my home country, but I’m not quite used to hearing, at 11 PM on the eve of a shoot, that it is off—or on. Fortunately, the crew I am collaborating with is flexible, and has no other commitments this week—so I am still hoping to get everything done during my last three days.

An on-and-off breeze (mostly off) helped me get through the spring heat—and this is nothing compared to July, when Marcia and I filmed a few days last year. Havana is completely back to normal, as far as I can tell, post-Obama/Major League Baseball/Los Rollings (The Rolling Stones). The pulse of Havana is a bit uneven on the subject of Obama’s visit. Some are lamenting the loss of a day or two of work—not a small thing in much of the world. Some felt his speech was canned, that he did his research and said the right things, but they await actions (lift the embargo). Others were inspired and felt that it was a historic opening, with inherent gains—and risks. Over beer today with our advisor Rafael Betancourt, an economist at the U of Havana, we talked about the implications. All of it is true, he said. Potential gains, risks, frustrations, empty promises, inspirations. A middle class will emerge, non-agricultural cooperatives will grow in number, and the state will remain strong and involved in planning the economy. There are no models for Cuba’s future—not Vietnam, nor China, nor Sweden nor Denmark.

Cuban telenovela star, Enrique Bueno.

Cuban telenovela star, Enrique Bueno.

I met with Enrique Bueno, one of the most well-recognized telenovela stars, whose government salary requires him to create other opportunities. I know that many aspiring actors in LA, San Francisco and New York wait tables between auditions, but Enrique is a star. He had several stories to tell that he wished to remain off the record.

An cautionary vision of the future Malecón by Lyudmila & Nelson at the fabulous Fábrica de Arte Cubano. 

An cautionary vision of the future Malecón by Lyudmila & Nelson at the fabulous Fábrica de Arte Cubano. 

As my final meeting was delayed, I had a nice walk on the Malecón, the wall that protects Havana from the sea. While the light turned warm, and the sea a deeper blue, I watched a fisherman snag a squid, a Santera dressed in white with a white parasol, and the usual and wonderful collection of lovers young and old, families, travelers and seekers. It is a magical part of this city.       

OLD CHEVYS, NEW ART

Ken with Ernan López, jazz pianist and father of our series composer, Harold López-Nussa.

Ken with Ernan López, jazz pianist and father of our series composer, Harold López-Nussa.

Bumped into several interesting people today, starting with Ernan Lopez-Nussa, patriarch of one of Cuba’s great contemporary jazz families. Ernan plays piano, like his son Harold, who will compose original music for our films. We shared responses to Los Rollings (The Rolling Stones) concert. It’s always interesting to talk to jazz and classical artists about rock and blues. We both agreed that Ronnie Wood was the best of the front line musicians. I still think of Wood as the “new” Stone; when he joined the band in 1974, two guitarists had already preceded him. Wood is also an accomplished artist, and a few of his portraits of rock and blues artists are hanging on my brother and sister-in-law’s walls.

Also saw Ian Waddell, former BritishMP from the socialist party. He wrote laws protecting the rights of indigenous Canadians. He was very excited at the election of Justin Trudeau, as Ian had served during his dad’s (Pierre) tenure.

But the day’s highlight, save for the mid-afternoon nap, which I needed after only four hours of sleep following a 4 AM bedtime (don’t ask), was the time I spent with Kadir López, one of the most interesting artists on the planet.

Kadir in his studio.

Kadir in his studio.

Kadir was very generous with his time and invited us to film as he welcomed an American art tour group organized by a couple who run an art center in Palos Verdes. The evening started with the group piling into a convoy of bulbous convertibles, yellow, pink, purple, and red, hood ornaments preceding their arrival.  Honestly, it felt a bit strange. Kadir explores, among other themes, memory, and history. What do we take with us? What should we forget? What need we preserve? Both in the personal, cultural and political landscapes?

Much later in the evening, after the guests had left, sated with food, mojitos and art, I asked him in a midnight interview, about the convoy. He told me that the Americans’ memory is part of his work as well. Our histories are intertwined, not only since the revolution but for years prior. He has a strong critique of the colonial relationship the US imposed on Cuba after the Spanish-American war. And he also recognizes that we share this landscape. That past present and future are more a spectrum than three distinct time periods. The tourists in the old cars, looking at the neon signs he has restored throughout the city, (a huge and ongoing public project) are part of his art.

Bending glass for a neon sign.

Bending glass for a neon sign.

I was thankful to have filmed it, and grateful for my incredible crew—Rafael Solis as cinematographer, Claudia Bueno as producer, Sergio Muñoz on sound. And props to Adolfo Nodal (Al), Kadir’s LA-based associate.

Kadir also gave us a demo in his workshop of bending neon over a blue flame. His work is quite visionary. In order to do it, he navigates the worlds of private fundraising and seeking permissions and licenses from the state. For him this is no conflict. Both entities ultimately want the work to be done.

ART & ROCK N' ROLL

Mabel Poblet's work.

Mabel Poblet's work.

Met with two of my favorite artists today to continue a dialogue about our series. Mabel Poblet had several pieces in last year’s Havana Biennale, and her work is striking. She did several pieces with incarcerated women called, “Simple Beauty.” She told me how lucky she felt to be born an artist in Cuba, rather in the US, where it is so hard for artists to earn a living. Kadir Lopez-Nievesdoes mixed-media work about history and memory,  often mounted on old porcelain signs left by American companies (Esso, Texaco, Wells Fargo, etc) and shot up by rebels during the revolution.  Both are interested in participating in our series.

Rubrik's presidents, work by Kadir López.

Rubrik's presidents, work by Kadir López.

We started filming the preamble to Los Rollings the morning of the concert.  The line was quite short—don’t they know that they should line up for 3 days and hold a bacchanale while waiting? Apparently not. There were a few hundred people in two lines, clearly enjoying themselves, but not unruly. They were in their 60s and teens, pierced and clean-cut, Cuban British, American, German, Mexican. Our conversations with them were quite moving—this was a historic moment, the first big show in the history of Cuba, whom had once banned the music. It was both a reflection and an announcement of the change taking place. David Blanco, one of the most well-known pop/rock musicians here, described it as an opening , a bridge builder. Of course, they want more concerts, but he was expressing more than that. A man in his 60s told me that this indeed was their Woodstock.

Our crew waits for the concert to begin. (L to R) Ernesto Granado, Javier Figueroa, Ivan Soca and our own Ken Schneider.

Our crew waits for the concert to begin. (L to R) Ernesto Granado, Javier Figueroa, Ivan Soca and our own Ken Schneider.

A very nice lady and her mom who live across the street from the venue invited us to her rooftop perch, where we set up a camera to capture 2 PM--the moment when the gates opened and Cuba poured in. I was on the ground filming, and it was exuberant.  I spent the next six hours conversing, with and without the camera, and the pulse of Cuba beats pretty well today. A large (estimates were 500,000) but civil and polite crowd—people gently touching my shoulder if they needed to move past me, no strung-out people, little overt drunkenness. And tremendous enthusiasm, with an understanding of both the gravity and joy of the moment.The two port-a-potties on my side of the field could have used help though, like another dozen. I imagine that Los Rollings brought them in, as the Cuban version was a rusted stall placed every few hundred yards on the street.

Los Rollings make history.

Los Rollings make history.

Mick and the boys are quite incredible in their early 70s. They still put on quite the show, although the voices are not what they once were.  For me the music was fun (they did play a few of my favorite Stones tunes, and even threw in “You Got the Silver” when they needed a rest on stage), butthe event was spectacular. And, by the way, free. And therein lies the rub. More bands will certainly come; they are already lining up.  Will they too give free concerts?  Or will future concerts rely on a middle and upper class to pay for tickets? Change here is inevitable, and the creating of said classes is already underway. Many Cubans I talk to embrace that aspect of the change—at least the creation of a middle class. But yesterday I saw a broad swath of el pueblo, the Cuban people, in attendance. What happens if, next year, a band plays, and it costs $20 to attend?

FIRST DAY OF FILMING!

Cinematographer, Ernesto Granado, with Ken at Ivan Soca's studio--a space we in San Francisco would dream about.

Cinematographer, Ernesto Granado, with Ken at Ivan Soca's studio--a space we in San Francisco would dream about.

The Obama visit seems to have struck a jazz chord here—expected, but still surprising, with a nice after taste. This was a big deal visit, and his words, both to the Cuban entrepreneurs (“How can we help?” rather than the drumbeat of “You need regime change”) resonated and, I believe, inspired. I met a writer for the Wall Street Journal whom I told, yes, everyone I have spoken to wants change, but nobody wants to give up what they see as their basic human rights: universal education, healthcare , housing and food. He responded that nobody is threatening to take that away. I mentioned that Cubans know that we lack such guarantees, and that may be a cautionary tale for Cubans, and he shrugged.  I also met a Puerto Rican news crew, baseball fans like myself, and after talking pelota for a while I asked their impressions of the Obama visit. They appreciated his speech, but are disappointed in the absence of action on Puerto Rico’s desire for independence. Tough job these Presidents and Prime Ministers have.

Ivan Soca photographing The Rolling Stones stage, built at La Ciudad Deportiva (Sports City) in Havana.

Ivan Soca photographing The Rolling Stones stage, built at La Ciudad Deportiva (Sports City) in Havana.

 

Spent some time filming out at the grounds of the Ciudad Deportiva, a sports arena and public field built in 1958, the year before the revolution, and the site of tomorrow’s concert of Los Rollings, as Mick Jagger’s enterprise is called here. Ivan, the subject of the first film in our series, is one of the few Cubans with access to photograph the site.  It is the usual array of banks of speakers and an arc of screens and a neon ornamented stage and huge towers of lights, 62 freight containers in all. Apparently they have 3 complete sets, which allows for the 2-3 week set up time on this “Olé” tour throughout Latin America. But it does look unusual against the canvas of Cuba. I won’t get too detailed about the 600 strong crew of shirtless Englishmen, including 300 for security, as Martin Scorsese is here with 40 cameras and will no doubt produce the definitive film of this moment. Because I’ve got something Scorsese doesn’t—Ivan. In 1990, Ivan, living with his diplomat parents in Eastern Europe, saw Paul McCartney in Red Square, The Rolling Stones in Prague, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall concert in Berlin, a few months after the wall fell. A few weeks or a few months later, the Eastern European form of socialism ended. Ivan offered that this moment is a similarly historic one. Not that socialism here will end this Saturday—but things will change, and the process of history will continue, and Cuba will evolve. I see this moment as Cuba’s Woodstock, save for the naked swimming in the pond at Yasgur’s farm.

Ken, our field producer, Claudia Bueno, and our sound recordist, Javier "Figa" Figueroa.

Ken, our field producer, Claudia Bueno, and our sound recordist, Javier "Figa" Figueroa.

 

Helluva time to be here.

 

The evening ended with an excellent dinner at Habana Blues, a restaurant inspired by the 2004 film of the same name, where all of the waiters are actors in TV, cinema, or theater. Joined by Gary Meyer, old pal and founder of Landmark Theaters, who supported our first Cuba film, HAVANA CURVEBALL. He brought a group of friends who included Robert Bloomberg, a filmmaker specializing in 3D, who gave me the best business card I have ever received—a set of 3D glasses with his name and website printed on the edges. He also took a few frames of us with his 3D still camera, mojitos out front. 

Dinner out with Bay Area film stalwart, Gary Meyer.

Dinner out with Bay Area film stalwart, Gary Meyer.

A FEW PICTURES & SOME GOOD STORIES

Our field producer, Claudia Bueno, on Day 2.

Our field producer, Claudia Bueno, on Day 2.

Our crack team met at the house of Figa, our sound recordist, who has an apartment in Vedado. We try to travel light, but ended up with a crew of 8, all Cuban except moi. Our newest find is Claudia, a 25-year old producer who will be working on Rapido y Furioso 8 (Fast and Furious 8) when that production blows into town next month. Claudia is amazed at the amount of money Hollywood throws around, for a location that will provide only 10% of the finished film. I responded that I wish I could pay her what they are. 

Production day 1 went without incident--but for a few small snafus, it was similar to a production day back home, except it was easier to park. We had to think on our feet, solve a few problems, but we spent much of the day in the studio of our character, Ivan, well outside the sections of Havana I know. From outside one might not pay it any mind--a concrete building painted a pale yellow, off the potholed street, past a gate and a garage--but inside the place was sumptuous for a studio. A large room greeted us, side lit by windows, with a kitchen and two other spaces, where Ivan's guitars, computers (he has preserved the archaeology of his technological development, even keeping the Mac SE, which he claims still works), photographic equipment and music lives. 

Ivan Soca Pascual's self-portrait.

Ivan Soca Pascual's self-portrait.

Ivan proved a willing subject, is a good raconteur, and speaks from a combination of head and heart. Ernesto Granado, our new cinematographer, knew exactly what to do, mounting the 5D on this handmade concoction of pipes and mounts, to create a primitive but effective shoulder mount for handheld work.

At night, Ivan and a few friends watched Obama's speech, which was an invite-only event with huge security. It was cool to hear them talk about it--they appreciated its warmth and sincerity, and expressed a mixture of optimism and concern for the changes ahead. But there seems to be a good vibe here vis-a-vis the President's speech. Not such a good vibe, however, about the Tampa Bay Rays, the baseball team visiting for a game against the Cuban national squad. Tampa Bay trounced, 4-1.

Watching Cubans watch Obama.

Watching Cubans watch Obama.

Good news though. Although I am still waiting for my press pass, A very nice woman at the Press Center gave me the wi-fi code, which only requires me to be in the vicinity of the Center. Reliable, fast wi-fi is a rarity here, and I am enjoying.

The Obama visit was odd to witness in that, there was very little to witness, unless you were in the press pool. There were no true public events—no throngs of people watching the motorcade pass, no public addresses,  no posters. I scoured several neighborhoods for “Welcome, Señor Obama” signs but nary a one was to be seen. I thought that certainly the shops on Calle Obispo, the tourist street well-known for housing the Floridita Bar, would have some Obama paraphernalia—a shirt, a lighter, a Russian doll inside a doll inside a doll—but I saw none.

HAVANA GETS MORE INTERESTING ...& MORE COMPLICATED

The window in a Habana Vieja shop, highlighting some of the week's happenings. The first U.S.-Cuba baseball game since the 90s and of course, the Friday concert by Los Rollings (Stones, that is.)

The window in a Habana Vieja shop, highlighting some of the week's happenings. The first U.S.-Cuba baseball game since the 90s and of course, the Friday concert by Los Rollings (Stones, that is.)

My morning meeting was cancelled today due to road closures--it was impossible to get from my part of Havana to the section where Kadir Lopez, one of the most exciting artists around, lives. Frustrating, but when life gives you lemons....take a walk in Old Havana. 

President Obama and his family toured Old Havana yesterday in the rain, so I expected to see welcome signs, posters, etc. Nada. I saw no evidence that the Obamas were here. He is set to give a speech tomorrow in the classic Alicia Alonso Theater, to the Cuban people and civil society--but only a few have invitations. The closest I'll get is watching the televised speech tomorrow--if they ever announce the time.

A political mural Ken stumbled across.

A political mural Ken stumbled across.

The mural  close up.

The mural  close up.

Strolling on Obispo St., site of the famous Floridita Bar, where Hemingway held court and tourists now out on their bucket lists, I looked for Obama paraphernalia and saw nada, but I did catch a glimpse of Hall-of-Fame baseball player Dave Winfield, here as part of the Major League baseball delegation, and I passed one store that carried a few T-shirts of Los Rollings.

 Tomorrow, barring further road closures, I'll be filming Ivan Soca. Wish me suerte!

Your man in Havana,

Ken

LIVE FROM HAVANA, Ken joins Obama, MLB, & the Stones (sort of)

I expected the Jose Marti airport to be swarming with reporters and tourists, as my friend at the Ministry of Culture told me they had received over 1500 requests for press credentials, that main thoroughfares would be closed, and that it would be difficult for me to work. Why not wait, she asked, and come after the hubbub of Obama, Major League Baseball, and Los Rollings (local parlance for the Rolling Stones) has passed? I explained to her that I need to be here to locate the characters in our film on the canvas of this moment. I have asked Cuban friends, shopowners, and police on the street which of the three events is the most significant. Their answers remind me thatthere is no “Cuban people;” there are many Cuban peoples. Some are thrilled to see Los Rollingsperform here for the first time; others are resentful of the reminder of what they have been denied, others want it to be over, others love Obama, others distrust the PR aspect of his visit, others are upset that they cannot secure a ticket to see the Cuban National team play the Tampa Bay Rays in the Estadio Latinoamericano, the temple of Cuban baseball. As always, there is universal agreement that the lifting of the US embargo (yes, it is still very much in place, despite the recent loosening of restrictions vis-a-vis travel and commerce) will lift everyone’s spirits and opportunities. A police officer told me today that Obama’s visit is good for humanity, yet he is just another human, like us.

Ken @ SFO, waiting for his red eye to Cancún.

Ken @ SFO, waiting for his red eye to Cancún.

 

Within moments of my arrival I met a visiting humanities professor from the University of Yucatan in México; while waiting for our luggage, we made fast friends talking literature, university curriculum, and the upcoming events. He suspects that the visit by Los Rollings may be of greater significance than that of Obama . And upon entering my casa particular (I say “my” because by now it feels like home), the private home I rent while in Havana, Ana, the excellent owner, had fixed a broken light, bought me bottles of water in advance of the rush, and prepared several plates of papaya and pineapple in the fridge. A series of “I love this place” moments.

Arriving at José Marti International.

Arriving at José Marti International.

 

At the International Press Center I bumped into Cynthia Carris Alonso, who is working on a follow-up to her beautiful book on Cuban artists. She has been working and photographing here for 23 years, and we both marveled at how many journalists are here for the first time, with no Cuba experience and little or no Spanish. Another affirmation of the importance of our project—to hear about Cuba from the Cuban point of view.

Planning our shoot with photographer, Ivan Soca Pascual. He has one of the few Cuban press passes to cover Los Rollings (as the Stones are known in Cuba). You can check out his photos at #ivansoca on Facebook.

Planning our shoot with photographer, Ivan Soca Pascual. He has one of the few Cuban press passes to cover Los Rollings (as the Stones are known in Cuba). You can check out his photos at #ivansoca on Facebook.

Ivan Soca tracking the building of the immense stage for Los Rollings concert on Friday.

Ivan Soca tracking the building of the immense stage for Los Rollings concert on Friday.

 

The Obamas are set to arrive sometime today, although information is scarce. If there will be a motorcade with throngs of cheering people on the streets, it will be unannounced. And today the area where he, his entourage, and the journalists are staying (just a few blocks from my casa) is oddly quiet. I suspect a bit more of a throng tomorrow.

That's all for now.

Ken

Your man in Havana

(R)EVOLUTION CUBA: History of an idea

Years before all the buzz over Cuba, before Mick Jagger, Will Smith, Andrew Bourdain, Conan O’Brien, and President Obama arrived, Peabody Award-winning producer/director Ken Schneider of PatchWorks Films was filming there.

On location in Cuba for HAVANA CURVEBALL, 2011.

On location in Cuba for HAVANA CURVEBALL, 2011.


When Ken boarded the plane for Havana in December 2014 to showcase his documentary HAVANA CURVEBALL  at the International Film Festival, he thought it was the end of his Cuba work. Little did he know that his film would screen on the very day Presidents Obama and Castro made their historic announcement of a diplomatic shift between their estranged countries. Remarkably, that screening led to an invitation to tour the island with Todas Contracorriente, a group of Cuban pop stars, Olympic athletes, and thought leaders addressing domestic violence by changing attitudes toward machismo.  

PatchWorks' Marcia and Ken with Todas Contracorriente including Cuban music legends David Blanco and Rochy in Santa Clara, Cuba.

PatchWorks' Marcia and Ken with Todas Contracorriente including Cuban music legends David Blanco and Rochy in Santa Clara, Cuba.

 

For 2-weeks Ken and fellow director/producer, Marcia Jarmel, had the privilege of riding a bus with these cutting edge Cubans, and listening, and what they heard were stories nowhere to be found in the U.S. media. Thus began their journey to make, (R)EVOLUTION CUBA. We expect to begin production later in the spring of 2016.

Rev Cuba logo.jpg


(R)EVOLUTION CUBA will be a series of short documentaries profiling Cuban artists navigating the tricky evolution of their country. “We chose to focus on artists,” said Schneider, “because Cuba has an inverse relationship to the U.S. when it comes to the arts.  Unlike countries where art is a fringe activity, in Cuba art is central to national identity.” The small island of 12 million people has outsized influence in dance and music around the world. At the cultural vanguard in any country, artists are some of Cuba's most salient ambassadors, with a history of crossing divides created by the 50-plus year embargo. To bring currency into an ailing economy, Cuban artists have been among the first to have opportunities to travel, to sell and perform their work, and for some, to push the limits of free expression. “Our characters have life experiences unique among Cubans and eye-opening to outsiders.  Their stories are just so provocative, and visually compelling. That’s why we are excited to share them,” explained Jarmel.

To learn the rest of their story and watch the (R)EVOLUTION CUBA trailer, visit: http://www.patchworksfilms.net/revolution-cuba.

What do Mick Jagger, Barack Obama, and PatchWorks have in common?

The answer: Cuba, March 2016 . . . if our Kickstarter campaign is successful.

Barack is definitely going. The Rolling Stones are doing a Latin American tour and have not announced a date in Cuba yet, but we think they just might. And Ken is scheduled to shoot and edit the first short in the (R)EVOLUTION CUBA series next month.  

Many thanks to the 144 of you for ponying up already and  reaching out across your networks. We're in the final push to make our goal. We have 10 days to go in this all or nothing campaign.   If you haven't yet watched our trailer, will you check it out and see if you lend support. A donation? An introduction to someone who can help? A post?  Info found at: bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs.

Here are some sample posts below, we'd love you to share.

#CUBA #ART #SOCIALISM #MARKET #CHANGE @PatchWorks Films launches short doc series. Trailer @ bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs Plz RT!

OR

Join me in supporting @PatchWorks Films new (Revolution #Cuba #film --#art for the people collides with market forces. Trailer and info @ bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs. 

OR

Rum. Jazz. Vintage Cars. We think we know Cuba. We hear about shortages, lack of opportunities, expected regime change, refugees and lucrative business deals. Lost is the remarkable debate where revolutionary ideals face off against the market's seduction. In Cuba, where 98% of the people are literate, have healthcare, a home, and free education, artists are not fringe. They are vanguard and they are in a quandry. Opportunity vs. free expression vs. socialism. How will they choose? Or can they have it all? (R)EVOLUTION CUBA brings you six short film stories of artists at the heart of an evolving nation.

AND 

If you are in the Bay Area, please joining us for one of two free events (and invite your friends!):

El Oso, featured in WHEEL OF LIFE. Sneak Preview screenings.

El Oso, featured in WHEEL OF LIFE. Sneak Preview screenings.

 

CUBA NIGHT: Feb. 23 - Berkeley - FREE

We will be screening a sneak preview of our upcoming short film THE WHEEL OF LIFE, featuring El Oso, one of the founders of Casino (the unheralded godmother of salsa), and hosting a discussion of the intersection of art, socialism and the market in contemporary Cuba.  Post-screening Q & A with the filmmakers, Marcia Jarmel & Ken Schneider, Malia Everette of Altruvistas, and UC Berkeley Lecturer Elizabeth Vasile, Ph.D. RSVP and details at:bit.ly/revcubaberkeley.

 

FILM, SALSA, & CELEBRATION: Feb. 24 - Free

The beloved Bissap Baobab in San Francisco’s Mission District is hosting a free salsa party, and has generously offered to donate 20% of the night's proceeds to (R)EVOLUTION CUBA!Admission is free before 10pm. If you want to join a select few for a West African dinner with us, back (R)EVOLUTION CUBA at the $100 or higher level at bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs.    RSVP and details at: bit.ly/baobabsalsaWe'll be screening WHEEL OF LIFE at 7. Dancing starts at 8.

AND 

If you haven't checked out the art perks we have, consider upping your contribution to own original photos, music, signed books at  bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs.  

 

Rochy was rock start David Blanco on the Todas Contracorriente tour with PatchWorks last spring.

Rochy was rock start David Blanco on the Todas Contracorriente tour with PatchWorks last spring.

New today is a CD of beloved Cuban singer-songwriter, Rochy. Virtually impossible to find outside Cuba, this music will knock on your heart's door. We had the pleasure of meeting and touring with Rochy and her colleagues last spring in Cuba.  We're thrilled to be sharing her music here.

Questions, suggestions, ideas? Let us know. info@patchworksfilms.net.

Adelante!


PatchWorks Events in SF & Berkeley!

Dear Friends,

We are delighted to report that our crowdfunding effort to support our new series, (R)EVOLUTION CUBA: Stories of Art and Change, is steaming along. As we approach the halfway point this weekend, we are within reach of 50% of our goal. Many thanks to our incredibly generous supporters who’ve jumped in already. If you’re considering becoming a backer, please take a look at the trailer and see if it’s something you’d like to support: bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs.  

To celebrate, share our work, and deepen conversation on what’s happening in Cuba right now, we are hosting two Bay Area events:

CUBA NIGHT: February 23 in Berkeley - FREE

We will be screening a sneak preview of our upcoming short film THE WHEEL OF LIFE, featuring El Oso, one of the founders of Casino (the unheralded godmother of salsa), and hosting a discussion of the intersection of art, socialism and the market in contemporary Cuba.  

RSVP and details at: bit.ly/revcubaberkeley

Film, Salsa, and Celebration: February 24 in San Francisco

The beloved Bissap Baobab in SF’s Mission District is hosting a free salsa party and has generously offered to donate 20% of the night's proceeds! Admission is free before 10pm.  If you want to join a select few for a West African dinner with us, back (R)EVOLUTION CUBA at the $100 or higher level @bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs.

RSVP and details at: bit.ly/baobabsalsa

We hope to see you here or there, and welcome your tax-deductible donations any way that’s easy.

Adelante!!

Ken and Marcia

P.S. Our friends Gaby and Drew hosted an incredible party to introduce us and our project to their pals. We’d love to meet your friends too, and share more about our work. Email info@patchworksfilms.net to host your own Kickstarter Party.

Featured image: El Oso, featured in WHEEL OF LIFE.

Kickstart Revolution Cuba - with a $500 MATCH!

Hello from PatchWorks Films!

Today is day 5 of our Kickstarter launch, and we can't thank you enough for your generosity in contributing to our (R)EVOLUTION CUBA project.

Your support has already helped us reach almost 8% on Kickstarter--a huge boost to our launch. 

TODAY ONLY, a generous donor has offered a $500 matching gift. If we can raise $200 in donations by midnight tonight, those gifts will be doubled!

Deadline:  Wednesday, Feb 03, 11:50pm EST - $500 MATCH!

We need your help spreading the word!

Crowdfunding is a way audiences can help create the films they want to see. You are an essential collaborator.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

  • Share our trailer with your friends and network bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs

  • Back us at any level. Every contribution gets us closer to our goal and builds momentum for the project.

  • Share our page with your social network.  We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Help us broaden our network.  Forward our email to a handful of friends and let them know why you are backing the project. Introduce us to a friend who is a patron of the arts, has a family foundation, writes for a relevant blog or publication, or works at a related organization.

  • Host a house party. Invite a few friends over for mojitos to screen a sneak preview of WHEEL OF LIFE and watch our Kickstarter trailer. We'll join you, if we can, or Skype in for a Q & A if we can't. Email info@patchworksfilms.net for details.

Social media is a huge part of crowdfunding. Help us get the word out by posting on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to tag PatchWorks Films on Faceook, and @pwcubafilms on Twitter!

For easy sharing, we’ve created sample posts below, so tweet, post, and share away!

Tweets:

#CUBA #ART #SOCIALISM #MARKET #CHANGE @PatchWorks Films launches short doc series bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs Plz RT!

Check out @PatchWorks Films new project (R)evolution #Cuba #film -#art for the people collides with market forces. Watch the trailer: bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs

Facebook post:

Check out Revolution Cuba trailer, and support @PatchWorks Films new project! bit.ly/revolutioncubadocs

Rum. Jazz. Vintage Cars. We think we know Cuba. We hear about shortages, lack of opportunities, expected regime change, refugees and lucrative business deals. Lost is the remarkable debate where revolutionary ideals face off against the market's seduction. In Cuba, where 98% of the people are literate, have healthcare, a home, and free education, artists are not fringe. They are vanguard and they are in a quandry. Opportunity vs. free expression vs. socialism. How will they choose? Or can they have it all? (R)EVOLUTION CUBA brings you six short film stories of artists at the heart of an evolving nation.

Useful Hashtags: #‎cuba‬ #art ‬‪#‎film‬ ‪#‎cubadocs‬ ‪#‎revcuba‬ ‪#‎kickstarter

We’re so grateful to have you on our PatchWorks Films team!

Live from Havana - Day 7

Havana Day 7

After my morning rite of logging in to the nearby wi-fi hotspot, I meet San Francisco pals Debby, Boaz, Tal and Idan Arzt-Mor, just in for a few weeks of vacation. Trying not to act like a grizzled veteran (I’m not, actually, I still love this place, just a little less agape), we strolled until we found a local restaurant, consisting of a counter, a few tiny tables, and the odd chair. A fish and rice plate later, and I was off again to Roberto Salas’ house where I wanted to share a creative idea with him, one that came to me on the previous day’s shoot, involving GIF files, new to a 75-year old photographer schooled in the darkroom. He took to it well, and we decided we would connect again. He explained his creative process. He’ll have an idea that germinates, gestates, iterates, and eventually flies away or becomes solid enough to warrant a photograph, or a series. “Send me a script,” he said, when I asked if he wanted to be profiled for our series. I gently reminded him that our documentaries are not shot to script, and he laughed. It’s always fun to talk to him, as he has stories, and more stories.

Spent an excellent afternoon with Kadir Lopez, a mixed-media artist with a very cool studio in the Kohly district. He did a large format (3 or four feet square) piece called Havana Monopoly: Deluxe Edition, a monopoly board where the spaces are occupied by old hotels, mafia men, and bond certificates of the companies that used to run the island. He has also taken old metal signs from the companies (large Coca-Cola, Texaco, Esso, etc), in various stages of elegant decay, and printed, painted, and lacquered collages of similar iconography. Powerful stuff. Apparently Will Smith and Jada Pinkett strolled in on their way from the airport and were so taken by the place that they asked if Kadir had an extra room. Being Cuban, he said yes, and they stayed for three days, while their luggage waited at their hotel.

Kadir is the subject of one our films, and his current project centers on repairing the marquee lights of theaters throughout the city. He calls it, bringing light to the dark. He is a neon artist, among other things, and he fired up the flames to give me a little demo. We shot a small bit of material and said farewell, sure that our paths would cross again soon.

My last jazz show (or so I thought) was at the National Theater—a fabulous performance by the Gastón Joya Trio: Gastón on bass, Rodney Barreto on drums (I sat with Rodney’s mom, whom I met last year) and Rolando Luna ticklin’ the keys. After lingering a bit to talk, I was about to head home to pack my things when I was seduced into one last trip to the Fábrica de Arte Cubano, where the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans was ending their three weeks here. I ended up hanging out with Danny Scher of the Bill Graham Foundation, who had been to Cuba many times but not to the Fábrica. I gave him my version of the tour and we saw a very fun performance by Preservation Hall, whom I had last seen in New Orleans around 1988. It was quite crowded and sweaty, and I was reminded of some of Kerouac’s descriptions of jazz and blues clubs in On the Road.

When I say a week is not enough, I’m not referring to the things I wish I had seen or done. I am referring to my hunger to be culturally embedded here. Visiting artists in their studios, visiting people in their homes for conversation, food and drink—this is the stuff of Cuba. This was my seventh trip, and every day I bump into someone I know on the street—one of the techs from last spring’s tour of Havana Curveball, a cinematographer, someone involved in the arts or music, someone I met at the Fábrica. My next trip must be longer. When I return in March, I need a full month, to experience life at the Cuban rhythm, continue what feels like a long and not easy process to retrain my ear to better understand the Cuban version of Spanish (not the same language I spoke as a student in Spain the 80s), and, of course, to make our films at a leisurely pace.

Hasta luego,

Ken