It's my tenth time here, but the first as part of an entourage. I am here with a group from Lincoln Center, and my charge is to film a set of Cuban musicians preparing for a trip to New York, where they will play on the same stage as Joshua Bell, one of the finest violinists of his generation. The Cubans' journey was seeded this past April, when Joshua, Dave Matthews, Smokey Robinson and Usher journeyed with President Obama's delegation of artists to Havana. They jammed with Cuban musicians and when Joshua returned, he began planning a collaboration which he hoped would take place in New York. Six months later, the date has arrived—Joshua will be joined onstage at Lincoln Center by the same artists he met in Havana last April.
The musicians include Aldo Lopez-Gavilán, one of the subjects of our film, TWO BROTHERS, his wife Daiana Garcia, one of the island's finest young conductors, and the singer-songwriter Carlos Varela. Last night we filmed the final rehearsal of Daiana's Chamber Orchestra of Havana, nearly all-female, in the beautiful courtyard of Cocina de Lilliam, a family-run restaurant in Havana's Playa neighborhood. It was great to see Daiana up close; her energy is high, she brings Cuban rhythms and inflections to her work, and she has assembled an ensemble that reflects the island's variety of skin tones.
Our crew meeting took place over dinner at another restaurant, and included some of my oldest Cuban pals, many of whom are notable filmmakers and artists. Two visionary cinematographers—Roberto Chile, who filmed Fidel Castro on nearly 70 international trips, meeting every foreign leader from Mandela to Khadafi (he loved the former, didn’t trust the latter), Rafael Solis, who works in both documentary and fiction; Figa, our excellent sound recordist who just converted his childhood bedroom into one of Cuba’s first 5.1 studios, Ivan Soca, photographer and subject of our film, THE LENS, Claudia Maria Bueno, our favorite local producer, and Javier Rojas, our driver and dear friend. It’s a dream team, and we spent dinner catching up on our families’ news and planning the next day’s shoot.