Live from Havana

Havana Day 2

At breakfast with our Cuban line producer Claudia, she reminds me that we can criticize our own families, but when an outsider does so, it can carry a sting. It’s a reminder of how much I don’t know. Every moment here I learn more about the island and have more questions. Many things work well here—important things, like healthcare, education, and an ongoing creative evolution which manifests in the arts. And many here readily tell me, habían errors—we’ve made mistakes--which often catalyzes interesting discussions about the mistakes made in each of our homelands.

By chance we bumped into Inti Herrera Nuñez, a filmmaker who produced  John de Los Muertos (Juan of the Dead), a wicked satire masquerading as Cuba’s first zombie film. Inti also works at La Fábrica de Arte Cubano (The Cuban Art factory), the best multi-art space I have ever seen. We set a date for lunch later in the week.

I deliver a Zoom F8 state-of-the-art audio recorder to Figa, a dear friend and sound recordist for all of our Cuba films. He thinks it is the first one on the island, and will be a valuable part of his equipment package. Figa is in the process of constructing a 5.1 sound studio in his family home to design and mix sound for film. We talk about our approaches to sound work and discover much common ground; Figa eschews the literal for the evocative. He shows me a beautiful film he mixed which tells the incredible story of a woman who survived Franco’s bombing, the battle of Leningrad, and domestic abuse, before arriving in Cuba in 1963. When I return in March, we plan to mixLa Rueda de La Vida (The Wheel of Life), our short film homage to the founders of Casino, the mother dance of salsa.

Our Executive Producer, Rick Swig, is in country for the Jazz Festival, and invites me to an incredible jam session headed by Harold Lopez-Nussa, one of Cuba’s finest young pianists. Harold has agreed to compose music for our series of shorts about artists, Revolution Cuba, and he and I start the dialogue about music styles for our films. On stage he is joined by an impressive array of musicians, including his brother Ruy (drums), Rodney Barreto (drums), Aldo Lopez-Gavilan (piano), David Sanchez (sax), Michael Braud (trumpeter for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band), and Rebecca Mauleon, who sits in on piano. Rebecca is the Education Director at the San Francisco Jazz Center and an accomplished musician. One of the best jazz concerts I have seen, period. Happiness.

After a dinner at our friend Javier’s house, where his two young daughters and I entertain each other over fried chicken and paper fortune-tellers (remember those? My finger memory remembers them, and I taught the girls how to make them), I met Ivan Soca for a soda. Ivan has photographed every Cuban musician from los Van Van to Silvio Rodriguez, and he is the subject of one of the portraits inRevolution Cuba. His story is wonderful, and includes bringing in one of the only Italian Lancias on the isle. A diplomat’s son, Ivan lived in Berlin and Prague for over 10 years, witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall. Returning to Cuba in the 90s, he has a keen international sensibility, and he will be a great collaborator. We start to design shots, talk lenses and angles, and I am excited. Very excited.

- Ken