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.
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.
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.