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! ;-)