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.