"Havanna Mi Amor" - a recent documentary

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Sep 9 10:57:06 MDT 2002

(This was meant to be posted prior to
the notes about I LOVE BUDAPEST,
but will still be of interest to readers
so you'll know why I liked the movie
about Cuba, HAVANNA MI AMOR.)

Since Louis often writes about movies
for this list, I've got a few comments on
two movies I saw this weekend which
will be of interest, I trust, to readers of
the Marxism list. They were first sent
out to the CubaNews list where I am
the lead moderator.

Walter Lippmann

"HAVANNA MI AMOR" is a terriffic movie, regardless
of what any of the reviewers say. It's going to be
shown again Saturday and Sunday September 14-15
at the Laemmle Monica Four-Plex at 11:00 AM and it
was a delight to this viewer. See it if you can. It's the
real deal of daily life for many people on the island.
Every scene and word was authentic, though there
were no didactic political points made.

>From my viewpoint, it honestly portrays the lives and
attitudes of several Cuban couples all of whom are
managing to live quietly peaceful lives in spite of the
great material difficulties they experience. Cubans,
as anyone who has spent any significant time there
knows, love to complain and do so without hesitation.
This is fully reflected in the movie. If they were afraid
to do this publicly and to a foreigner, they wouldn't
be recorded on camera as these people are.

Here is the blurb from theaters it has been shown at.
Then two notes on the movie by its director and one
from an opponent of Cuba from the Miami Film
Festival, which normally knocks movies with any
favorable views of Cuban life today.

This, too, is being billed as one giving us the "real"
Havana. The Miami writer says it has been banned
on the island. I have no idea if that's true, and, trust
me, not all movies shot in Cuba today reflect in a
favorable way on life on the island. I'm allways very
curious about these things, to see what's real and
what's not in these depictions of life on the island.

So, with this disclaimer, please read ahead...

Every evening when the sun is setting over Havana, it's
telenovela time. Countless Cubans gather in front of their
badly wired, crudely repaired, Soviet-made televisions to
escape and see their own lives reflected in the small or
large tragedies unfolding in their beloved, never-ending
soaps. Here they find the relaxation from all the hustle
and bustle, and reflect on what's really important in their
lives: love, jealousy, the struggle for justice and the
search for happiness. The filmmakers focus on six Havanan
telenovela fans whose love lives rival the TV fictions for
complication and intrigue, and in so doing create an homage
to love, old television sets, and one of the most beautiful
cities in the world.

MONICA Sept. 14 & 15 {11am}
PLAYHOUSE Sept. 21 & 22 {11am}
FALLBROOK Sept. 28 & 29 {11am}
note by the director, Uri Gaulke
Our film was made at a time when Cuban TV had - after a long
break - restarted broadcasting a telenovela about the lives
of the present-day inhabitants of Havana. In the early
phases of the first ten episodes, Havanna, mi amor follows
the life of Gladys, a young tobacco worker, Silai, the boss
of a hairdressing salon, Felix, J0ana, Marino and Vilma -
all avid viewers - and José, a technician who services
ancient televisions. Even so, he is plagued by something
that cannot be tackled with a soldering iron or voltmeter:
his wife has thrown him out after 14 years of marriage. It's
truly the stuff of telenovelas, but for José it's a bitter
reality. Silai, the boss of the Rojo Salon in the centre of
Havana, understands his plight and tries to comfort him.

Everything could be so easy for Gladys. She's young,
beautiful and knows how to stand up to men. She threw the
father of her child out a long time ago. But Gladys has been
out of work for months. J0ana has been luckier. She fought
long and hard for Felix, and now she keeps a tight hold on
him because he has all the characteristics that a
self-confident woman like J0ana considers important. Marino
solves his problems with sex. Vilma, the woman for whom he
left his wife after 38 years of marriage, has been the great
love of his life for the past eight years.

A subtle documentary which shows that the lives of the
people in front of the televisions are far more exciting
than the daily telenovelas

by Uli Gaulke (director of the movie)
Every evening, when the sun sets in Havana, the new
telenovela draws the Cubans to their TV sets where they
devoutly watch this very popular and endless series: small
and big tragedies, love and jealousy, schemes and intrigues.
Here their battle for justice, the strive for happiness
reflects and they find a few hours of relaxation from their
otherwise strenuous everyday life.

"Havana, mi amor" was shot during the first release of
episodes from the new Cuban telenovela. After the series
commenced innumerable little wheelbarrows and rikshas with
the wildest constructions of television apparatus were seen
pushed through the city to their various workshops.

The film accompanies some of these people on their way
to their workshops and takes a glimpse into their everyday
life: People who are so poor that they cannot afford to buy
the new colour TV's. There is Silai, who has managed a
hairdresser's shop for 28 years and who hears the wildest
and most charming stories sad or humorous, or Gladys who is
the mother of a 4 year old boy, a strong and beautiful woman
searching for a job. There are J0ana and Felix who are still
very much in love with each other after so many years.
Poverty hasn't been able to touch their love. Or Marino: He
is a chivalrous filou. He left his wife after 38 years of
marriage to live with the very much younger Vilma. Marino
brings his love a rose everyday. And Jose, known as the man
with the golden hands, whose wife left him after 14 years.
He is a genius when it comes to repairing the old CARIBE
sets. Spare parts are rare because they were manufactured
under Soviet license until the downfall of the Soviet

All these people fight their individual battles as the
days and weeks go by. And at the end of the film we will see
that these people's lives are much more exciting than the
evening episodes of the telenovela which flickers over the
old CARIBE screens.

Into the heart of Havana
- Paloma Villaverde de Rico
Whether you've ever visited Havana, Cuba, or not, Uli
Gaulke's new documentary, Havanna, Mi Amor takes you to a
city you've never been to before. Don't expect gorgeous
views of the malecón or snapshots of beautiful mulattas
dancing away at fun-filled nightclubs -- with Gaulke as your
tour guide, you will definitely take the road less traveled.

This German director takes you into the heart of the city,
where people go about their daily life and live only on
hope -- the hope that someday all these troubles will
somehow go away. Until then, however, the citizens of Havana
continue scrubbing living room floors (if there is any water
available; the shortage, according to some, "has lasted a
year") and watching telenovelas, or soap operas, on
dilapidated television sets (when they are working, that

Havanna, Mi Amor centers on people living ordinary lives in
this Caribbean capital. Gaulke's camera quietly explores the
day-to-day existence of these people who graciously tell us
their life story and invite us into their homes. We come to
know their past and their present, but most importantly we
come to understand that life in Havana is genuinely
difficult. As one interviewee tells us, "In Cuba you learn
that you have to work at anything in order to survive, so if
there's one thing you can't be is lazy."

Granted all this has been said before; everyone is well
aware that life in Cuba is one hardship after another. This
documentary, however, never once puts down the Castro
government outrightly. It relates its message subtly. It
lets the people being interviewed tell their story, and with
that the truth is told.

In one phone conversation that an interviewee has with a
love interest in Canada, he states that he has spent his
whole month's salary ($10) on that one phone call. That
simple statement says a whole lot about the condition of
life in Cuba. In fact, the movie's message is so powerful
that it has been banned in Cuba. To top it off, Havanna, Mi
Amor is not full of sorrowful accounts. The movie's subjects
talk about their lives with a smile on their face while they
make a cup of coffee, cut their hair or cart their
television off (most people don't have cars) to the

Gaulke, who grew up in East Germany and has found the
memories of his own past in the crumbling facades of Havana,
has created a gem of a movie. Havanna, Mi Amor is one
documentary of Cuba that should not be missed.

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list