Last week the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova visited Cuba and the Film School. I was lucky enough to meet her and was not disappointed. She was actually one of those terribly accomplished important people, who seems totally accessible. I wanted to take her and her husband home for dinner and chat over a good bottle of wine and put the world to rights …. But no time for that.
Her visit to the Film school was a very exciting and important first step towards the school becoming a UNESCO project, and it all felt so right. Helped enormously by her words and her warmth. She even got to spray some graffiti on the wall, as is the convention at the school when VIPs are visiting. So not far from Steven Spielberg´s comments now sits a line from Irina reassuring the school that UNESCO is with them. Soñar con el cine … imaginar UNESCO esta con ustedes. Ir. Bokova.
The irony did not pass me by that Spielberg is a great supporter of the State of Israel and particularly the infamous wall, and Irina had been the first UNESCO chief to recognise Palestine, which in turn, led the way to the vote of acceptance of the State of Palestine by the UN, which happened last week. Irina’s visit coincided with this historic vote and all week I felt as though I was a part of history in my small way.
UNESCO is already very involved in Cuba for all the right reasons and presently the only UN countries that vote for keeping the blockade are the US and Israel. I do not profess to be an expert on the Israeli Palestinian situation but I think there are areas of great human rights violations and the figures speak for themselves no matter how you analyse them. Lets face it, who would chose to be born in Palestine, it seems a bum deal. Lets hope that their new status gives the Palestinian people a little dignity and identity, if nothing else.
Anyway, back to Cuba. Everyone was very excited at the school and it was a positive day. Later Rafa and I were invited to the reception in the garden of the beautiful house in Vedado where UNESCO is based. There were lots of UNESCO and UN people, a few diplomats and important Cubans and it was here I got to meet Irina´s husband and chat. He lives in Kingston, Surrey and works in London and his daughter is at Kingston University. I imagine Irina lives most of her time on planes and in hotels. Her short speech was inspiring and I felt a bit tearful by the end, realising that I am well and truly entrenched in this world of internationalism. A British Guatemalan family growing up in Cuba studying at the French school, exiled from one country and not sure where we are heading next …………..
The rest of the week was spent cruising on this high of collaboration. We enjoyed a relaxed dinner on the beautiful rooftop of a friend’s house in Miramar apparently very close to the vaults of Cuba! Not something you think about too much in a socialist state, but I suppose everyone has their gold bullion. Diago, a well known Cuban artist was there with some very interesting views on the future of Cuba that we are still absorbing. Then on Saturday we had the big pre Christmas bash at the Norwegians. The Norwegian Ambassador is openly gay so has the best parties in town, helped enormously by his very lovely Mexican husband Paco. Paco had called me the week before to make sure I had my invite and I mentioned to him how I was looking for some Christmas Carol singing. That’s a good idea, he said. I arrived at the party alone on Saturday night, Rafa was meeting me there from another reception in the film school. As I walked in, the ambassador and Paco were talking to a group of Cubans (from the music department of ISA) who turned round and settled themselves before launching into Hark the Herald Angel Sings. I felt as though my little Christmas wish had been granted and had to stop myself from singing along loudly like a drunken carol singer!
Now are preparing for the Havana Film Festival…………