Cheerio 2012 …..and why Hello 2013 ;-)

Another year flies by, the end of an era for the Mayas and approaching my 10 year anniversary of living outside my country.  I will be 44 quite soon, wooh!  I’m not scared of getting old, I just can’t quite believe that I am supposed to be so mature.  Nico will be 7 this month.  Saskia will start school in September.  I will get fit, honestly ……

I realise now that the end of the year for us in Cuba will always be defined by the end of the Havana film festival and the end of the first term of the film school.  And me scrabbling around trying to find Christmas presents in this town.  Not easy.

I have invented a whole ridiculous story that although Santa is truly international, his helpers, the elves, are locally based and do all the shopping.  Hence the reason why their Santa stockings are undeniably Cuban in style and content.  And crikey, I just don’t know what the elves will be getting next year as I have just about exhausted supplies of little things to go in stockings in Cuba.  Boys still grumbling about a white Christmas and wanting to go to England, where I assured them that they were more likely to get a grey cold wet Christmas than anything else, and to get a white Christmas we would have to go and visit friends in Norway or Switzerland, and we don’t have clothes for snow, being scantily clad tropical types these days.

I always enjoy the film festival, a whirlwind of familiar faces and gossip and intrigue and the film school did particularly well when it came to the awards – students, teachers and graduates.  There were rumours that Sharon Stone was coming, and then even Jennifer Aniston, the most American of girl next door heroines, and this was causing a little excitement in certain Havana circles.  Not for me, I was still spinning from meeting Irina Bokova who is certainly not a household name but a superstar in my eyes.

Yes it was fun to meet Benicio del Toro last year, partly because a couple of my friends back home fancy the pants off him, but also to compare the big screen image with the real man, and he is a big man, I can vouch for that.  But generally I am not a star gazer or have ever been as impressed by celebrity as others, not even in the days when I was doing anything to get a job in a record company.  I do remember a very cool A&R guy at Sony was pursuing me momentarily and rocked up at my house in Hammersmith at 10pm to whisk me off in his red vintage convertible to meet Cypress Hill.  I’ve just been to the cinema and I’m drinking a cup of tea and I’m quite tired, I said (very rock n’ roll!) and on top of that I’m more of a house girl than a gangster rapper, I added with a shrug.  He looked at me with utter disbelief.  You don’t know how many girls would beg me for this kind of opportunity and with that comment he scorched off down Fulham Palace Road and his flirtation with me was officially over.  I wasn’t sure if the opportunity he was referring to was a night out with him, or a night out with famous gangster rappers.  Anyway I digress …….

I was quite intrigued however when Rafa told me that Hawk Koch (Yes that really is his name) the President of the Academy (that’s the Oscars to the likes of you and me) was in town with Annette Bening and Lisa Cholodenko, the director of The Kids are All Right, which was screening at the festival.  They wanted to come to visit the film school and all the protocol had been set up accordingly for us to pick them up at the National Hotel and they would follow us there.  I was quite intrigued to meet Annette Bening as not only is she one of the better, more heavy-weight Hollywood actresses, she managed to tame Warren Beatty, which was no mean feat I imagine, he, the famous womaniser of Carly Simon You’re so vain fame.

So we met the group in the lobby of the National, all easy going chatty Hollywood people.  I met Annette when I opened the mini bus door outside but was told in no uncertain terms by the Cuban protocol lady that there was no way that I could travel in the bus with them to the school.  Fine with me I thought, but don’t get your knickers in a twist.  I felt like sticking my tongue out but opted for a slightly more mature fake smile with half moon eyes.  Maybe I’m already a marked lady in certain Cuban circles, this straight talking British wife can’t be allowed too close to these Hollywood people you know, they speak the same language …. or that’s what they think!

Anyway the visit all went well and they even delayed their next appointment to stay longer.  Grafitti was scrawled by Hawk, Annette and Lisa on the walls, that incidently, are getting rather full these days.  We had a question and answer session with the students and a quick tour of the facilities.  We ended up at the Ranchon Paladar eating a late lunch with the whole group.

The food took a while to come and in the meantime we were chatting politely, when I noticed with horror that Annette and Lisa were penning a letter to Fidel at the table and dictating comments to each other.  What on earth was someone as cool and elegant as Annette doing acting like some kind of slightly precocious teenager. And why on earth should Fidel Castro be interested in them, as nice as they are?  And if they had to do it, why do it publically in front of us?  Did they think that we would think it was cool?  Now, as far as I was concerned, they suddenly lived on another planet ……… LA LA  Land, where everybody is blown up by their own importance, even if they are nice democrats.

A few days later Rafa and Santiago met with the nice lady who was representing the Academy.  They were offering to send teachers from Hollywood, but alas we couldn’t help them out as the film school has an impressive rostra of visiting teachers and a queue of others offering their services.

When it comes to human capital the film school is rich, and we respect and thank all those people that come to teach at the school year after year for very little money but with a lot of love, and they come from everywhere, including the US.  The Academy had not done its homework!  They wanted to know how they could help the school and in the end the answer was that we didn’t need the help they were offering, but an institutional Oscar would be accepted graciously, if offered!  ;-)

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7 Responses to Cheerio 2012 …..and why Hello 2013 ;-)

  1. Selena says:

    I would personally love to meet Annette! I love her work. And she is certainly more interesting than many of the younger celebrities, like Jennifer Aniston.

    • Josephine says:

      Yes I think she is a good actress. I just watched the Kids are all right and she plays the more butch Lesbian very well, although in general the film is very light and could have almost been made for TV. I think she has been through a lot with one of her children who is a transgender. Born a woman and now a man.

      She was interesting to meet but with all the protocol sometimes it is hard to really see someone for who they are, but here at the film school we are not impressed by anybody just because they are famous and from Hollywood, as we are more about Independent cinema, generally my favourite US films. I love New York directors Hal Hartley and Jim Jarmusch for example and my first workshop was given by a teacher from New York State University. Right now I am trying to get hold of Breaking Bad the series. SO we have plenty of input from great individuals from the US but do not bow to Hollywood. There is so much cinema in the world!

  2. Selena says:

    I suppose you can’t get Netflix on dial up internet . . . they have Breaking Bad. I agree that there is plenty more cinema in the world and certainly the best doesn’t come out of Hollywood.

    • Josephine says:

      unfortunately downloading here is extremely slow and probably netfix is blocked. there are ways of getting round it but just writing and up loading my blog is hard enough. I am lucky to get to watch some amazing films outside Hollywood but I miss some of the better US TV serials which I think are often better than a lot of films. Breaking Bad, Weeds and Madmen …. I am still looking for series. With children I like to sneak some TV rather than watching a whole film sometimes.

  3. marvin says:

    Nice story, I came kind of late to it but I’m really impressed by the things you write about, which certainly I did not know. I found really interesting the things you say about how well supplied of human capital Cuba’s film school is. To the point they don’t need Hollywood assistance. Wow, that’s remarkable!

    Thank you Josephine.

    • Josephine says:

      we have some amazing teachers and collaborators who come to the film school not for their own self interest but because they really believe in the philosophy and enjoy teaching or assessing. We also have plenty of people from the US who come, they tend to be the people who have already bought into the philosophy and understand what the school represents. What the film school always needs is money of course, but getting that from the US or Hollywood is often problematic. Right now all our cars are breaking down, mine included so that is our big problem this week! Thanks for reading!

    • Josephine says:

      Hey Marvin …well we need assistance but as you know sometimes people want to help in the way they want to help, not in the way we need. We need cars, cameras, computers etc. but teachers and love we have! IN Guadalajara right now at the festival missing my little ones a lot!

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