I was cleaning up my old blog site and dusting it down and I found the last unposted blog I wrote before we were publicly attacked and hounded out of the country. We were stressed and with the feeling that the state and the corrupt people were closing in on us. Rafa was hardly sleeping and we did not know who to trust with our fears but as usual we were surrounded by a lot of love, just as well when we discovered what was about to happen.
so here is the last blog I didn’t publish, as by then I realised how interested everybody was in me!
I have no air con in my car, but at least my car is back on the road so I should be thankful for small mercies. However most of my journeys are short so I never get to build up enough speed for effective ventilation, and I seem to arrive everywhere red faced and sweaty with my hair looking like a bad 1980s blow dry. I have also stopped kissing people since I got quite badly splashed with sweat they other day by two overweight and over cooked diplomats, and I fear I could be giving people the same delightful treat.
We have been very busy in the last few weeks. Our good friend Stephen against all the odds managed to direct and stage a great British play Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall, translated by a friend of ours and performed by some great Cuban actors. We went to the opening night and I made it to another night with a different caste. The theatre was full every night. I felt as though Cuban actors had met with the great tradition of British theatre, all under Stephen’s directing expertise as a Meisner coach. The money for the play was raised the old fashioned way with a lot of hard work and determination from Stephen and the caste with some help from the film school.
We organised a fundraiser auction of donated art in our house and friends generously donated through the 100 club (100 cucs each), and also got to buy some great art. A lot of our good friends here in Cuba helped with promotion and their personal generosity was amazing. Paulo and Nico were outside offering to park and clean cars. They made 9 and 7 cucs each and I had to admire their resourcefulness although I am not sure how well they cleaned the cars, especially as it was raining!
The play was a headlining event in British Cultural week. The British Council had helped a lot and brought over a couple of good films but the rest of the British week was a bit of a let down and seemed to be made up of a bunch of Cuban musicians and DJs getting dressed up in comedy Union Jack garb. Not one British DJ or band or any music from what I could see in the programme that under duress was sent to me by email. My requests for posters and flyers for the film school was ignored and Rafa never received an invitation to the inauguration of the film week, making the British embassy the only one that fails to invite us. How uncool! I live in hope that things may change next year but the British Diplomats always seem a bit out of touch and haughty in that very old fashioned way.
The film school has been going through some hard times and the last few weeks have been very tough for Rafa and the whole family. Not much sleep and a lot of stress. The school has lost a large portion of money that was coming from the Cuban state (long story that anybody unfamiliar with the creativity of Cuban funding would never understand) and like the whole of Cuba it has to learn to grow up, and grow up fast. Becoming more sustainable and self sufficient by looking for international money when the world is still gripped by a global crisis, is not easy and in the meantime sacrifices will have to be made.
When the axe will come down it looks as though salaries may have to be cut a long with some of the great projects the school is involved with. Production and post production services need to be sold internationally if the Cuban state will allow it. In the area of international workshops there are many plans to expand and grow. The film school has always been the island on the island, and its chemistry of international and Cuban culture means that it is worth fighting to help the project to survive and keep its philosophy, and not be allowed to fall into mediocrity or be institutionalised rather than reaching out to the tres mundos.
In the meantime the boys are nearly out of school for the summer and both did fantastically in their yearly reports and evaluations. We may be a bit poorer but our children are at least a bit smarter! I am planning our trip to UK and France. Now we are 5 in the family there are not too many places we can stay. A good friend is lending us her boat in London and we will head down to Devon to stay in my mother’s new holiday pad and then to France to stay with friends in the Dordogne and take in a bit of Paris on the way back. Looking forward to getting away with the family for the first proper holiday in a long time, we certainly need it!
I wish I had more time to spend with you Danay, one day we will meet again and have that cup of tea you promised me. Like all the wonderful Cubans I connected with you rapidly, and will never forget that interview in your mother’s house in Santa Fe. But we didn’t get to hang out as we wanted ….. but you are going places and so are we, so I think our paths will cross. In the meantime all my friends in the UK are going to know about you and your music!
We arrived in Cuba with so much love and TRUST. We were so glad to have got out of Guatemala, away from the violence and corruption, and so happy to be in Cuba with Rafa working somewhere as wonderful as EICTV, the school he loved so much. We were safe, we would be looked after.
Or that is what I thought, how wrong I was. We had been left a 15 year time bomb by the last director and it was ticking ….. Even after she left she had her spies in the school informing her of everything Rafa was doing and was writing public emails to criticise and damage him. Recently she wrote waving the white flag …… way too late for that! Maybe she too was a little unstable after 4 years in the school …. anything is possible.
My husband was a student at the film school in the second generation, to him in those days it was a utopia, and it was the school of 3 mundos (3 worlds). They were pioneers creating a new world of cinema as many of the students that followed were. I have met a lot of his friends, they are all still great friends and wonderful inspiring people. Now in 2013, nearly 30 years on, what has it become? Just another film school? But a film school in Cuba with a great heritage, and one lucky enough to have exceptionally good teachers ………. I met a lot of great people at that school but also an awful lot of fake people holding on to their lies, some more clever than others. They were the ones that disappeared from the scene when the going got tough.
One woman spent the whole of the first year showering us with presents, the children too, acting as though she was a good friend, I never trusted her and I was right. I felt sorry for her boyfriend who always seemed to be following one step behind her like a loyal dog. Another character, who Rafa invited for over a decade to Guatemala for the film festival, paying her flights, was nowhere to be seen. Did not even call us to say goodbye. Is this the way decent people react?
My love affair with Cuba was intense and dramatic, of course, how else could it be? I will always remember MY Cuba. The sweet kind people that came into my life and they were the ones that were there for us at the end to help and support us, when all the bureaucrats in the government, the foundation and the film school, had done their work at ruining a family life in a few days and possibly psychologically damaging my children. I still haven’t found them a school place in their new home, we arrived too late. But who gave a shit about my family in the end?
A few weeks ago my husband told the children over a Saturday breakfast that he was no longer director of the film school. Nico, my 7 year old just shrugged his shoulders and sighed and said that at least we wouldn’t have to worry about saving the film school anymore. But things got tough when they realised they were leaving their beloved French school and all their friends and Cuba ……..
A cowardly, total lack of humanity is the only way I can describe what has just happened to me, and my family. Ironic that with film school money, a previous director had co-produced a documentary series called Ser un Ser Humano. Not much humanity came my way from the people with power at the school. The anger and indignation, and also the horror of what we have just been put through, is lessening day by day, but writing this blog, I hope will be some kind of catharsis, and help me turn the page and leave all this soap opera behind, and move on to better things.
Also ‘me and my blog’ have become one of the characters in this ridiculous story, which should be a film script or a myth. The British wife is now, like Miss Scarlett in Cluedo one of the characters of this tale, where we became victims of corruption, deception and betrayal. I remember in the last tough days, receiving a phonecall from a woman (who thinks she is a lady) from the fundacion, telling me that she was a friend and a professional. I had to laugh, there was nothing friendly or professional about this woman. She behaved like the worst kind of bureaucrat from the beginning to the end.
My husband has had to take a lot of personal punches in the face and plenty of bullshit over the last few weeks, but everybody who knows him knows that he is an honourable man, who loves and protects his family, and loves Cuba and that film school. He is also Guatemalan and has been through a war in a country where you are taught to keep your mouth shut, and not share your worries, and at times in Cuba, there seemed no other option. We always thought we were going to be safe though.
We have received accusations of being counter revolutionaries and having private meetings with the American office of interest. So ridiculous. We met the poor guy 3 times. Twice when they threw their huge annual party for all the people involved in culture in Havana and the usual Havana personalities, journalists and other diplomats, and once when he came to visit the film school. We invited a lot of ambassadors to visit the school in the 2 years we were there, and when we invited the Head of Mission we really did not think he would make it, as it was outside their 25 mile zone. To his credit he applied 3 times and finally got permission. We admired his tenacity and received him once in the film school, I wrote about it in this blog. This was our only time meeting him.
Thieves, thieves everywhere ………
When I arrived in Cuba, our house, although beautiful, was a crumbling den of corruption by the sea, the tip of the iceberg of what we were about to discover. The woman in charge was running a food, beer and coffee business from the house, selling through the rubbish collectors and whoever else. When I arrived it didn’t take me long to get to the bottom of everything. All this stuff in the house and there was nobody living there. Food for hundreds of people, including many luxury items had entered in the last 6 months, we could do nothing as everything had been signed off. The woman still works in the kitchen at the film school and I dare say she is still stealing.
We could not ignore what was happening, as it was right under our nose in our own house. As I said, we threw them all out and then our house was burgled. Nobody at the film school who could help, seemed to want to, in fact the opposite, the head of administration was openly hostile towards me when I wanted help with the police and the investigation after the robbery. Other ¨friends¨ in docencia (the faculty) told me just to forget about it and it was all conveniently swept under the carpet. It took us a year to get the guys to pick up the rubbish again, they were really pissed off at losing their business, the British wife had made a stand and she would have to pay. We certainly did when thousands of dollars worth of money and property disappeared one night from our house. Rafa was about to travel and only a few people in the school knew that he had cash in the house for a few hours. Too much of a coincidence.
I tried not to let all this dark stuff get me down, and we were happy to be away from military fascists, narcos and violence in Guatemala. I loved Cuba but I was wisening up fast. The people who I had found to work in my house either refused to work with the film school as they described it is a nido de ratas (a rat’s nest) and pushed everything back onto me, or they ended up stealing from me too! After a year I had almost cleaned it all up and had my great right hand woman in charge. Without her I could never have got through the last year, she was my rock and one of the most wonderful and honest and hardworking people you could want to have at your side. Rafa on the other hand had more than a house to deal with …..
I was already falling in love with my Cuba, a world of good and interesting, decent people. But at times I felt more comfortable on the terrasa of my friend’s apartment in Buena Vista than playing the role of director’s wife in my beautiful beach house. Many aspects of the film school for me had begun to represent all that was going wrong with Cuba, and I had to keep it to myself. There were good people in the school, and I tried to focus on them and not the fake ones. In the second year some great women arrived bringing with them an international vision and experience, there seemed some hope that the school could move forward into the real world.
I loved meeting all the people who came to visit and the wonderful teachers who brought their energy. When there were a lot of workshops happening the place could be buzzing with healthy energy from outside the madness.
The wise grey haired academics*, always treated me kindly, the good team in production and photography, Luciano and the ladies in the library, the sweet people in the dining room, the humble workers, tired of working amongst a mafia. But I had become tired of dealing with so many doble caras (two faced people) full of their own self importance. My Havana life was much more fun and genuine.
* Especially Daniel Diaz Torres who directed one of my all time favourite Cuban films: La Pelicula de Ana.
Every month we had parties in the house to thank the teachers who travel for little money to give classes at the school. I threw some great parties, we all had fun and danced a lot. I love music much more than film, and like to push people out of their comfort zone. My days of working in record companies in London meant that I had a huge appreciation of diverse music. I will always remember how much people danced in front of the sea and how my favourites became theirs. In Cuba, I got into my rumba, always loved cumbia, rediscovered Blaxploitation, and fell in love with Danay and her gang.
I always wanted to invite the students more so they could escape from the pressure cooker, but the first time I did invite a group and took some time and had fun chatting with them and made sure they had some special cocktails that we did not normally serve but in the end, someone stole 26 electric candles from me! I had just bought some new ones on Amazon half price and a German friend had brought them over for me from London. I felt like a little girl who had just had her birthday present stolen, I loved my cheap but cool candles and everyone knew it. Another stealing mystery, but we couldn’t touch the students, some of them were just too full of entitlement and hostility. It seemed I deserved to have my candles stolen ……… In the end some students even stole the words from my blog but that’s another story.
I met many lovely students on an individual basis, especially in my first year, but as we entered our second year, they seemed increasingly more interested in complaining about petty issues rather than looking at the big picture, and their way of dealing with everything seemed to be with hatred and violence and lynching amongst themselves most of the time, but the Rapidito Mafia (as they had become known) were always happy to lynch anyone available from what I could see. A Shakespearean mob manipulated and misinformed and sometimes unstable. One week they would be saying one thing and the next ……
As a psychologist I began to find their behaviour erratic and often disturbing. I felt a bit sorry for them, maybe this so called utopia had turned into something more akin to Lord of the Flies or One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest then anything more poetic or wistful. The isolation of the school and the intensity of the community did not seem healthy anymore. Havana was so close but so far. It seemed cruel to isolate these young people from life and Cuba. If you ask me the school should move to Havana and maybe things could be a little bit more normal rather then some over-rated psychological experiment that has passed its sell by date.
I just wish I had had more time to dance with my friends, instead of listening to the problems Rafa was dealing with, night after night after night. It drained me. This organisation was on its last legs and we were realising that even people we had considered friends could not be trusted ….. and the time bomb was ticking louder and louder ….
The Cuban State is what it is and it seems they have been looking for scapegoats everywhere in these last few years. Two Brits just got out of prison, there are now 20 Canadians in prison, all for minor allegations. They threatened my husband with prison 3 times, mainly for irregularities which had been going on at the school for over 15 years. He took it like a man as they told him to do so! Then they took him to the school and did it in front of the whole school like a crucifixion, with no chance for the truth to come out. The people who should have been up there, those that had been sucking the cow all those years, were nowhere to be seen. Cowards!
When we were thrown out of our home and the whole family left the country in just 2 weeks. I had to give away most of my possessions from a family life of 10 years and 3 children, everything in my kitchen, most of my clothes, my books. I was scared of what could happen to us. Can you imagine going through that? I wept as I tried to decide which books to keep from the children’s collection, which memories. Hiding their Lego in boxes to be taken away.
They were unable to say goodbye to their school and half of their friends, they had to see their books, bicycles and toys being sold and given away,………or disappearing, and their mother working like crazy under enormous pressure to organize everything in record time. We could not have done it without the help of all our wonderful friends. We shipped a few precious personal things to Guatemala where we were not going, and ran with 5 suitcases to England leaving so many things in the house to be given away. The school paid nothing towards the move. Everybody warned us, don’t leave Rafa behind, you all have to get on that plane together. At the airport security they went through everything in my hand luggage touching my underwear with much interest and studying my magazines. It was pathetic, I had to bite my lip as I snatched a pair of my favourite knickers from his hands.
But in those last 2 weeks, our house was full of Cubans looking after us and keeping us safe in more ways than one, some people who had been friends since the beginning, others who appeared like knights in shining armour to help us with everything and anything. Filmmakers and their families, artists, students, actors, writers, dancers, and our wonderful team in the house making us eat, and helping by taking the children out to have fun and keeping things as normal as possible for them. Thank you everybody we couldn’t have managed without you. Maybe you were the counter revolutionaries we were supposed to be meeting with? I think you were all just decent people and wonderful kind friends!!! To be a counter revolutionary in modern Cuba is I believe verging on an oxymoron, if that makes any sense.
Also everyone in the diplomatic and international business community who reached out to us, my great friends in the international press, UNESCO, NGOs and human rights organisations and of course the wonderful Mums in the French school, an eclectic bunch. I will never forget all those people, friends for life who came to sit with us and give us hugs and love in our stunned bewilderment.
It seemed that some Cubans were grateful for the truth, but horrified about how we were being treated, they were truly ashamed, therefore they couldn’t do enough for us. Nothing seemed real, but we just had to keep our mouths shut and get out, but we thanked them for their solidarity. One thing I can truly say is that we came to Cuba with a lot of love and left with even more.
I miss my Cuba and my friends and my Latin world of good and genuine people some of whom I never got chance to say goodbye to ……. but as we would say in English ………. We were always between a rock and a hard place. Or that is how it felt like to me, and maybe to those Cubans crying in my house …… so much emotion. As Danay sings ……….. lagrimas, lagrimas, lagrimas, lagrimas…….. (tears)
Does utopia exist? I don’t know but what happened to my family is a reality. That everyone involved in this ridiculous fiasco has to live with their shame and they all know who they are.
And still some people kept telling us, stay calm, stay quiet ……. Think about the school. Phew …………. Think about the school? What about my 3 children and half of my possessions, and how they were trying to dirty my husband’s spotless reputation????
But on the upside I have never received so many messages of love and support ever in my life from all over the world, messages that touched me and got me through the toughest times.
The Cuban way to turn a blind eye is not what Raul is spouting in his doctrine of anti-corruption. But change is tough, and Cuba, or at least the film school, was not ready to change, now it has to ……… as all the truth came tumbling out …. THAT’S WHAT THEY WANTED.
Te quiero MUCHO Cuba ……you are survivors, just like Rafa and I, and my family and I wish you all the best!
Easter arrived in Cuba. After 8 years of dealing with Semana Santa in Antigua I am rather relieved that Easter like Christmas is not such a big deal, although I am sure my children don’t agree. Luckily my German friend Katharina always organises a wonderfully tasteful German Easter with an egg hunt in her garden for the children and Easter bread very similar to hot cross buns.
Anyway, Good Friday had been announced as a holiday here in Cuba but typically no mention of why or for what reason the whole of the country was being given a day off. The French school, which doesn’t acknowledge religious festivals did a sneaky Monday holiday. I totally forgot and turned up at the circulo with Saskia on Friday, realising pretty fast when there was no sign of anybody. After all the chilly weather Good Friday was a typical hot steamy day.
The night before some militares from our neighbouring beach club had stupidly set fire to some rubbish at the end of our road, for no particular reason other than to piss off everybody in the neighbourhood, as far as I could tell. It was too far for us to reach with the hosepipe so we tried to chuck buckets of water but by the time we managed to put out the plastic the flames has spread inside the trunk of our beautiful seaside spruce which marks the end of our road. I had grown very fond of the tree not just because it was tall and beautiful but it was also symbolic. The boys are not allowed to cycle or venture past it alone. It marks the limit of the dogs territory and the gang of gangster male dogs don’t often venture past it. If cars drive past it towards our house we know they are lost or looking for trouble!
Anyway most of Good Friday was spent with a bunch of around 20 guys, sent by the local council hanging around at the end of my road watching one guy hack the tree to bits with a chainsaw on the end of a large crane. Every time I walked past to get into the car and pick the boys or take them to fencing, with Saskia in tow with her little mantra poor tree Mummy , pobrecito, I had to take the usual chatback you get from workers who are not working. Enquiries of my nationality, my marital status (rather obvious I thought) amongst the other usual repartee. They wanted me to bring them all refrescos (soft drinks). I retorted that there was only one guy working and he was not making a very nice job of hacking my tree to death, so I wasn’t feeling very well disposed to waiting on them all like a 1950’s wife. Finally around 4pm they had finished their work leaving an ugly hacked stump and branches and debris all over the road. I managed to just about drive through it later. We had already planned a bonfire for Saturday night but now we had even more reason.
Friday night we all went to the film school. A friend was having a Birthday party and we thought it would be fun to hang out and chat with staff and students. It had been a pretty intense couple of weeks for everybody and thesis time is arriving so nerves are getting frayed. We took the nanny so we could actually stay up late, not always a good idea with 3 children.
We made it back to Havana for lunch the next day and poor Rafa had to rush off to another film meeting and festival in Havana. I sat and watched Les Miserables with the boys and Saskia. What a boring musical, not one good track if you ask me. I don’t know how it had such a long run in London’s West End. Paulo with typical endurance was the only one to stay awake or interested. He watched it to the bitter end, bless him!
We were all ready to sit staring at the bonfire by 7pm and Rafa and the boys helped build it. We had new fast-burning spruce branches to throw on and I got well into it like a seasoned pyromaniac, at one point hurting my wrist as I over enthusiastically snapped branches but never-the-less carrying on like the crazy fire starter I realise I am. (secretly I can’t wait for our next one, I don’t care about the children!) Anyway I didn’t think too much about my injury but ended up in the hospital by Tuesday afternoon having an X ray but luckily no fractures. We went out to a party on Tuesday night and after a couple of glasses of wine, I thought oh its nothing and began to use it again. Later that night I could hardly sleep and was almost in tears, wailing …. this is worse than childbirth! The next day I used all the Cuban remedies for inflammation. A compress of grated malanga (a root vegetable very common here) and some strange leaf, the name I can’t remember. Today I am a new woman although my hand still looks suspiciously as though it has had a botox treatment.
This weekend is Saskia’s Birthday and the little Diva has been talking about it for months so we are all getting ready for the big event. She has many adult admirers so it is growing into quite a big party for all of us!
New York preparations going really well. We have 4 nights and it is going to be non-stop. I am really looking forward to it. I haven’t been to New York for around 15 years, and have generally got on with New Yorkers. I like their straight talking attitude, and New York is almost as cosmopolitan as my dearest London. We have lots of meeting with interesting people and film schools and yes I am going to power shop like a Cubanita!
Well Guadalajara seems a distant memory of sitting in the bar of the Hilton Hotel catching friends as they flew past from one film or party to another. We did a press conference, we met some of the recent graduates, we saw old friends from Mexico, Guatemala and everywhere. I ate too much spicy food as usual, probably even more as now I live in Cuba where there ain’t much spice!
I forgot how the dry desert climate and the pollution of the big city irritates my eyes and makes them water for 3 days. They usually get used to it just before I leave. I was also horrified by the amount of shops and the fact that everyone seemed to have big huge monstrous new cars. Have I been Cubanised or is Mexico getting even more Americanised? Obscenely huge four wheel drive vehicles with darkened sinister windows and huge growling wheels. I was persuaded by the reception of the Hilton against my better judgement, that we should go to the new bigger and better shopping mall. We waded through spaghetti junction streets packed with traffic and spotted in the distance the biggest Office Depot of my life and a huge Walmart and a Zara that looked as though it could disconnect itself from the Mall and conquer the world. I want to do some shopping, but I don’t want this I wailed pathetically to Rafa, who hates shopping at the best of times. We did a U turn and fled back to the hotel.
But hey I still love Guadalajara and Mexico. The Mexicans full of smiles and good service and great food. After my aborted attempt to check out the new shopping centre, I did my usual run to Grand Plaza to power shop, get a much needed new wardrobe for Rafa, taking the plunge into kiddy technology and buying an XBox for the boys late Christmas and Birthday presents from us and Grandma. Also a quick trip to Walmart to do the usual supermarket basics that only us Cubans have to do. We even bought new smart luggage to use one day when we can travel like normal people. Now I still have to take my big old suitcases everywhere to fill them up, even on the shortest trips.
We got home to a Cuba decidedly chilly, and cold front after cold front blowing down from the north and through the windows of my beach house. I tried to see if I could turn my aircon into a heater last night but with no success, so back on with the cashmere cardy and Rafa’s socks. I know I shouldn’t be complaining as most of the UK is still suffering snow, sub-zero temperatures and winds blowing in from Siberia, but this is not normal for March in Cuba. But maybe just as well as I have no air con in my car, and we are not sure when we can get hold of the parts to fix it. Also recently butter, lemons and bacon have been tricky to get hold of. The ebb and flow of products here in Cuba always keeps you on your toes but I am missing my bacon and tomato sandwiches.
I have also been enjoying time with my children and trying to get them back on track. Saskia is hitting tantrum time and I am learning how different little girls are, especially this little princess manipuladora who rules the roost but in such a charming fashion. The boys tantrums revolved mainly around fights over toys and were resolved by time outs. Like two wild puppies they would fight and scream and yap and I would be constantly breaking them up and separating them. Things have improved but still the same model applies: Paulo is a total wind up merchant and knows how to press all his brother’s buttons, especially as he is verbally adept in 3 languages. Nico is reduced to an emotional mess of injustice but his shouts and tears drive us all crazy.
Saskia on the other hand knows how to play all of us and Mummy has to be the one to stand up to her, although her brothers too are beginning to loose patience and have been caught swiping or pushing their dearly beloved little sis. When I am dealing with her tantrums and trying to be consistent (the hardest parenting conundrum) her favourite thing right now is to wail for her Papa or anybody else she can think of, which I have to admit is sometimes hard to ignore and rise above. Anyway a list was drawn up for Paulo and Nico 2 nights ago and there have been some slight improvements. Also I have been strict with the nanny that she has to make them clear up toys and wash up their plates otherwise she is not helping me.
Drama at the film school never abates and Rafa has been having a tough time trying to resolve everyone’s problems with little help from the Cuban authorities, and students at their tense emotional time of pre shooting their thesis have been creating dramas of their own which inevitably have to involve us. The injustice of one particular drama has upset me so much that I haven’t wanted to go to the school this week, I don’t trust myself, I may just have to give a few people my opinion and that is probably not my place.
We had promises of donations of cameras in Guadalajara but it all came to nothing in the end, and we are having to leap through burning hoops whilst playing bagpipes to get cameras here in time for the students to shoot.
The French school visited the Film school and for one morning my two worlds came together. The children had a great time and asked lots of questions like ….How do you make blood? How do you make it look as though someone’s head has been chopped off? How did they do the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park?
Anyway all is going well for our preparations for our trip to New York which is not easy as we have to fly through Mexico or Canada depending on which flight we get. We will be there for the Havana New York Film Festival organised by our dear Colombian friend Diana and I am looking forward to it so much. We already have meetings with 3 Film schools and a lot of interesting people who support and love the school. I feel very positive about the people in New York and the good connections we will make but frantically organising things so that the children won’t miss us too much the 4 nights we are escaping. I can’t believe I am doing it again but feeling happy in the knowledge that we are all going to the UK and France for our summer this year. The boys can’t wait, they love going to the land of their mother and it has been a couple of years since they last went. They also want to try out their new language in situ and go up the Eiffel Tower and through the tunnel ……… and up the Elephant and round the Castle.
I have just spent a delicious week locked up in the house with my gorgeous little Babygirl (known as Saskia to everyone else) for lazy mornings snuggled up in bed, she with Charlie and Lola, and me with one of Rupert Everett’s amusing autobiographies, kindly smuggled by a new European contact. The weather has been unseasonably cold, which means like a good English summer and perfect for skulking around indoors wearing my cosy cashmere cardy over normal Cuba attire.
Although I have been chastising myself for my inactivity and all the things I should have been doing in this beautiful and fascinating island, sometimes we Mums just have to bed down again with the infants. Another international party in the house tonight so I will re-launch myself like an ageing rock star.
After 3 exciting weeks out of the house I have returned to Havana life slightly jaded, not helped by the disappearance of 2 of the more genuine people in my life, one escaped to New York and the other to Paris. I suddenly felt as though I was doomed to return to a social life of po-faced mothers and gossiping diplomats. Which is entirely untrue, as I know plenty of lovely mothers and diplomats and I just need to be reminded of all the wonderful bohemians and down to earth people in my life and get them all together again.
I have also been fretting over what appears to be an in-growing eyebrow hair problem, which does not abate and is disproportionately painful. I am rather embarrassed that my first visit to the doctor’s here in Havana will be for this slightly ridiculous ailment.
Many weeks have passed by without me clocking in and I have many heady tales to tell so not sure where to begin. Off the island, Chavez died (big shit for Cuba) and we got a new Argentinian Pope. On the island the new Cuba battles on trying to grow in a graceful and dignified manner and not always being allowed. The film school remains an exciting hotbed of passing talent and interesting worldly friends with a background scenery of one of the best soap operas you could wish for ….. eat your heart out Eastenders and new Dallas.
I managed to make it through my workshop, although the odds and gods were against me, way too many things going on around me. Old friends rocking up, new dear friends disappearing, children on holiday, grumpy nanny not stepping up, my chef gone slightly loopy and dressing like a hooker, my car broke down and we had no parts to fix it. I got food poisoning at the end of the first week and the film school doctors finally got their hands on me, injecting me in the butt cheek and putting me on a drip for 3 hours with me pathetically saying … I want to go home, and then giving in finally when I remembered I had the first series of Breaking Bad on my laptop.
So somehow, throughout all this, I got to write a script and Paul was a wonderful teacher and mentor. A laid back Californian scriptwriter, with many other talents and a thoroughly nice guy. This course was very practical and although I did not have much time for writing my homework in the end, I did finish a script outline and fudged together a first draft for a short film. I did however, get a really good sense of how to pull one together and still have to get that Final Draft scriptwriting software I was sniffing around for the whole of the second week. Maybe when I do my rewrite I will share it with you right here on my blog ……… I expect you can’t wait!
My house has now become more technical although we still don’t have broadband, ADSL, wifi or anything else of this century we are now the proud owners of an X-Box (guiltily purchased for neglected nippers in Guadalajara) and an Ipad mini, that I didn’t even know existed. But there is a story behind that …
We had a visit from our new American buddies from Morgan’s Creek (not Dawson’s!) and NBC and some other production houses. David, Kim, his wife and Kia arrived 2 and a half hours late to our house. We were all quite pissed off, Rafa and I and two other friends working at the school who shall be named S & S. It was Sunday and I was starting my workshop the next day and wanted to get the children and myself to bed early. When they arrived I shot from the hip along the lines of …… if there is one thing I expect from you Americans it is to be on time (years of living in Latin America have made me appreciate this punctuality). They apologised and took it all with good grace and proceeded to charm us all evening, and we had a lot of fun.
The previously planned seaside sundowner drinks were reduced to us looking into the black of the Mexican gulf listening to the waves crashing, but we made it out to the local newish Sushi restaurant around the corner and then back home for more drinks and chat. At one point I could see Rafa’s face looking slightly concerned and the warning bells sounded as I lightly skipped to his side like a gazelle on too much Cava to see what was going on. He was refusing to accept their very generous gift of the aforementioned Ipad mini. I did some verbal shin kicking and reluctantly Rafa received this wonderful present that even has his name engraved on it. I on the other hand was getting on with everybody so well I would have felt justified in receiving a couple of cars from whoever at this stage, and Kim did manage to give me a pair of cool reading glasses which the (grown up) boys later confiscated from me for bad hinatera behaviour. I got them back the next day and now don’t know how I lived without them, as you do in the material world.
Kim had confessed to me at dinner that his mother’s cousin was Meyer Lansky, shady character numero uno of pre revolution Cuban gangsters. His mother had been very ashamed of this side of the family and refused to talk about the old mobster, merely spitting under her breath…… He was a killer. It just all seemed too weird and wonderful that here I was nearly 60 years later sitting not far from Lansky’s old empire and planned Vegas of El Caribe talking to his second cousin. Gotta be a script in there somewhere. Maybe I’ll write it for NBC and make them loads of money ……. on my new iPad mini of course!
So the iPad sat on Rafa’s desk snarling at us with its sleek cool new world look until Rafa brought it home and the boys got their hands on it and that was that …. No going back.
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…………
I had an adventure last week. I escaped from my domestic life as a mother and wife of the director of the film school and became a student again. And reading over my last few posts. I think I really needed it!!
I had for some time wanted to do a scriptwriting workshop at the film school but had not found the time or the confidence. I was very nervous about it. Rafa was away in Margarita when the workshop began, so I had only my usual chutzpa to rely on. On the Sunday night before, the children all finally in bed, I looked for a little notebook and pen. Am I really going to do this? I thought. Was I being audacious to try to do this course with the boys on holiday? Will the other students accept me? Will they think what the hell is the wife of the director doing here and henceforth to complain? And maybe they would have been in their rights to do that. Abusing my role as I am. Aprovechando, as we say in español. No matter what, I thought this was meant to be, for whatever reason. And there speaks the great believer in serendipity that you know me to be! Anyway, like my own hero, my call to adventure was too strong to refuse.
The morning came and I managed to drop Saskia off at her circulo. Left the boys hanging out with Rey the custodio until their private teacher arrived and headed off down the straight road to San Antonio.
I made it to the school on time and found the head of the script department who showed me to the room. Will I still have anything interesting or intellectual to add after so many years of childcare and food foraging … what could I bring to the table?
I was lucky enough that, for my first adventure into academic life at the film school, I had Ruth Goldberg as my teacher. A New Yorker whose serenity hides a cutting and mischievous intellect and who gently encouraged all of us to slowly open up and share our thoughts and opinions. Also, I think I was supposed to meet Ruth, she was the perfect mentor for my week stepping out of my ordinary life.
We talked about the structure of the Myth, of Joseph Campbell and the Hero with a thousand faces, adventures beyond the ordinary. What is the myth we are living and what does it mean to us as people and writers?
We talked about our favourite films and why they appealed to us. How our hero can be a country or a city. What turns a myth into a tragedy? How we all have our inner journeys and outer jouneys. Where Freud and Jung came into it all. And it all made wonderful perfect sense to me.
By day two I began to think I was a myth junky. I began to see myths everywhere! Cuba is a myth, the revolution is a myth. The myth of Cuba has already put me through a few tests and I still love it.
What about my relationships? The myth of love at first sight. Did I cheat the course of tragedy? And what of my journeys? What will become of my journey away from my homeland? Will I ever return? Or have I gone too far? (Back to the Unbearable Lightness of Being again). What does the rest of my life have in store for me? I know I always wanted to step out of the ordinary world and that I found it hard to refuse adventures but will there come a time that I need to find my road back so I can resurrect myself as a new person in my old world? huh
Then how does all this relate to me as a writer? How can I create my stories and my characters? How can I bring things to life as a writer? What kind of writer do I want to be? I know I love telling stories and maybe sometimes making people laugh or think or perhaps feel a little bit uncomfortable. Yes I like to take people on a journey out of the ordinary.
On Saturday night Wichy, my favourite Cuban DJ played at the film school, it was a perfect end to a wonderful week, as I remembered the journeys DJs have taken me on and wished writing was as easy as dancing.
And as I sit here now looking out at the sea all clear and calm after the storm the children back at school and the house empty I am trying to organize all the stories I have running through my head.
Thank you EICTV, all the script students of the second year for accepting me so graciously, and most of all to Ruth for inspiring me and helping me to remember all the things I knew and all the things I want to know.
I know, I know ………. I well and truly fell off my blogging wagon. But after a long hot summer with 3 children under 8, a certain composure has finally re-entered my house this morning (can a house be composed? not sure). I am alone at my computer and I have managed to get on line and there is no child screaming up the stairs for me or trying to climb on to my lap.
One thing that I was thinking the other day, as I was trying to come up with my next blog, and thinking that it better be good, because if I did have any readers I am sure they have all forgotten about me by now. Anyway I was thinking that really I need to write posts every day as Cuba is like one great big telenovela (soap opera) and you just have to learn to roll with the good and the bad like a true Cuban. Also Rafa’s life at the film school would be worthy of a good drama series and he doesn’t have chance to tell me the half of it. I know I have not worked as an occupational psychologist now for some years but I feel as though I am. Also I now manage 10 people in my house which is akin to a small business venture.
Also I had a few moments this summer when I really did not want to be in Cuba anymore which was not a good feeling as I probably have at least another 2 or 3 years to go! So I had to shake that feeling and get back my Cuba groove. The Olympic parties also made me feel terribly homesick for everything that I love about my country: great music, sense of humour, fighting spirit, throwing a good party. I wanted to be there on the back of the Rolls Royce with Jessie J spinning around the Olympic Stadium …….. and no stealing Cubans.
Yes you guessed it, the main reason I have been feeling down is that the stealing has carried on, or at least the discoveries of more missing things in the house has only just stopped. The thefts really bothered me and I had to work at being philosophical and think ….. its only money and we are all healthy and I have 3 wonderful children and a noble hard working husband who loves me. But at one point it didn’t seem to matter how much hard cash Rafa was earning it just kept disappearing. You need to bear in mind that Cuba is a cash culture and we are paid in cash and all our purchases are in cash. Prior to this, I was a girl who lived on plastic, and the whole thing of stashing money and moving my hiding places was a new game that I did not do so well it appears!
We are now the proud owners of a safe with a roundy roundy twiddly knob with our secret access code like something out of another century. I have until today been reluctant to learn how to open it which is beginning to slightly irritate Rafa. I am not quite sure why I feel reluctant, maybe it is because I feel like an idiot that all these thefts have happened under my nose by people that I thought I could trust and I don’t want to be responsible for maybe not closing the safe properly or losing my little piece of paper with our secret code.
Rafa and I spent the summer like two amateur sleuths trying to piece together when we last saw things and who could have possibly been inside the house to have got their hands on our stuff which pretty much all disappeared from upstairs (although the cook did a good job of removing a few things from my kitchen).
It was awful because some of the people in my life who are entirely trustworthy, I had to mentally put them through the process of being under suspicion, especially as I felt that my ability to know what people were capable of in Cuba was evidently poor and I had to get with it and stop trusting people. This is not my natural state. You’re talking to the girl who had a baby (and then two more) with a man she hardly knew ……but trusted, and then proceeded to follow him to two quite tricky countries.
Anyway, we had to fire another couple of people and re-organise the house so that the people who I have always trusted are working for me more and have had a big pay rise. It has taken me a lot of time to find a new nanny as the whole thing of letting another person into my house has been difficult. Marylin started yesterday so lets see …….
Anyway this week I decided that I had to believe that the people around me are all good and our bad luck has stopped and look to the future. And stop torturing myself with images of strangers handling and stroking my possessions and cackling to themselves at their good fortune to come across me!
Everybody is back from the summer break. The party season is upon us once more and I have already met a handful of new friends. We kicked off with the Brazil party in the Beach Club next to our house (Club Havana).
I still feel frustrated about my inability to get out of the house and do things for myself but I suppose every mother of 3 young children feels like that and not every mother is lucky enough to be living in such a beautiful house in front of the sea where everybody wants to come and chat whilst listening to the waves.
Also our new fairy godfather Santiago is sorting me out better internet connection so I don’t have to spend half and hour getting on line and the rest of the time worrying about the minutes ticking by on my dial up but knowing that to hop on and off line could mean another half an hour ……….. Soon I will have internet access from the film school and I can be on 24/7 and read some newspapers and maybe even download music.
I wanted to say a big thank you to all the people that have sent me and brought me presents ……. clothes, cheese, Vanish, toys, Nutella, tortillas………… And also a big thanks to all my friends here in Cuba who have listened patiently to my tales of thieving woe.
So I will endeavour to catch you up on the events of the summer over the next few days and fill in the gaps of this log book blog book.
Our first graduation at the Film school and the emotions and all night party.
Juju’s visit. Our wonderful nanny from Guatemala gets on her first plane to come and holiday with us for 2 weeks.
Our holiday trip to Cayo Santa Maria 5 hours drive away.
This week we have another party in the Mexican embassy (looking forward to the food!), and a party to welcome the new Guatemalan ambassador, and then we are throwing our first party of the season in our house with all the new people who have arrived at the film school ……….. but I shall be writing again I hope!
As I was thinking about writing this post, the Peter Greenaway film title that I stole for this post title kept playing around in my head all jumbled up and back to front. I think Peter Greenaway has visited the film school and if not he should be invited.
I have a new cook, there was a thief about, I am a wife but I don’t have a lover, although in Cuba a lot of people do …………. anyway on on ….
The boys have broken up from school and a lot of our more wealthy friends have left for the summer to their properties in Europe along with most of the diplomats and bureaucrats. Luckily we have enough Cuban friends and enough going on that I don’t feel too lonely and abandoned. A little bit of breathing space ……… and now with our new air con in the living room, things are looking up!!
I escaped for a few nights to a global city alone, such things have hardly been heard of in our house! I enjoyed walking the beautiful streets without having to keep my eyes on 3 little naughty heads, lunching in cafe terraces, visiting several galleries, finishing conversations with adults, topping up my fashionista desires ……… bliss …….. but that is another story for another time.
I returned to three happy but slightly resentful children, a husband ready to offload all his problems and trials and tribulations of being a single Dad and director of a film school ……… and yet another robbery in my house. We let our defenses down for a moment, and of course I wasn’t here to keep my castle safe!
So there was the usual ……why on earth did you let these people into our house? Because I wanted to get things done well you were away. ……. conversation.
On the few occasions that I have left my husband alone since we met, he is always intent on improving the house and/or my car for me while I am away, which can often lead to conflict as I like to be heavily involved in the style of said improvements and also who they are done by. He is then hurt, as he says he does everything to make me happy …… hmmm.
Anyway some workmen came to my house from the film school and were in my bedroom fixing the air con or pretending to fix other things and some cash walked. Not helped by the fact that we live in a cash world in Cuba and do not have a safe. Luckily we were approaching the end of the month and we did not have that much cash and they were decent enough to leave us some.
The film school was supposed to find us a safe but failed to do so. I have now taken all matters into my own hands and decided that the only people who come into my house will be friends, family or people invited by me who have already had my tough character analysis test. I want to be independent from the film school in all matters of administration and maintenance of my home. Apart from anything else they all like to have a good snoop and gossip is rife in any institution and all over the island. ‘tonces no mas!
To this end, I now have a new housekeeper and cook who is proving to be a great investment. Just as well as I had 9 adults and 9 children in my house over this weekend at various stages and I managed to just about feed those who were hungry. Mercedes lives nearby, is a hardworking, organised women who is transforming my kitchen into a place of homemade cakes and shortbread cookies and cottage pie and it is only week one!
After a few weeks of struggling alone with some help from my young babysitter Claudia, I decided that I needed to get on with finding another nanny before the long summer holiday began, still slightly reluctant to use my children as guinea pigs, but it seems it is the only way. Take them on a trial basis and see how it goes.
Still not convinced about the latest. I am trying someone who lives very close by, 5 minutes walk away, but although she seems very sweet and a good person she also gives the impression that she has really suffered a hard life, and that life has worn down her spirit.
I want to say to her …….. hey lady lets laugh and smile and skip with the children, lets make up fun games and holiday adventures. I am sort of hoping that we might be able to cheer her up a bit but she told me the other day somewhat despondently that Saskia has asked her why she had such a big belly! I was at the time playing footsies with a giggling Saskia throwing her around the bed. On the one hand I felt bad, but on the other I was marvelling at my 2 year olds communication skills and astute observational abilities.
Anyway Elena is a black lady, an afrocuban who studied Russian and spent 5 years in Kiev only to return to Cuba just as the Soviet system was getting the hell out and leaving them with the worst economic moment in post-revolution Cuban history, the infamous special period. Suddenly nobody wanted to learn Russian or bother speaking it too much when she returned. The Ruskies were gone and it seems that Elena has been sad ever since at her bad luck. Although she did tell me that she loved living in the Ukraine. Maybe she fell in love with a Ukranian who stole her heart forever. I wanted to say to her, well your belly’s not that big and you’ve still got a great pair of legs but in these situations it is best just to keep quiet I find …………..
Anyway a few more parties to organise before the end of the film school term, the graduation party being one of them. Juju, our beloved nanny of 7 years, who nobody has come close to replacing, is arriving from Guatemala at the end of July for a holiday and by the first week of August Rafa will be free ……… and we have to plan some Cuban adventures.
Where shall we go? Colonial Trinidad? Maria La Gorda beach? Cayo Coco? Exciting, cultural Santiago, the other side of the island, is calling me, but 12 hours in a car in tropical heat with 3 kids means I fear I might have to delay that one. But I want to dance to more Rhumba, meet a few more Cuban DJs, teach some recipes to my new cook, spend quality time with my children (woops I suppose that should have been first!), try to make my husband forget about the film school for at least a couple of weeks and entertain any pale faces Brits that make it over my Caribbean way.
I began with one of the better-known directors/writers who is now pretty famous in Spain and Europe Benito Zambrano. We actually bumped into him on the dance floor in Guadalajara so I got to put a face to the name.
Havana Blues was the first one that caught my eye as the poster looked fun and I needed something a little lighter. I actually ended up shedding a tear at the end of the film but not before a wonderful romp through the lives of two musicians and their families and friends and music.
Benito was actually a student at EICTV during the special period, so he knew the hardest times in Cuba and I think he portrays them really well: from the poverty and frustration of no electricity, to families torn apart by economic desires. But even throughout the worst times, the Cubans still had pride and style. I think these two things have always kept them going.
The actors are all exceptional and the music a great introduction to some modern Cuban sounds. The story revolves around two main characters, musicians being seduced by Spanish producers into signing a contract which seems to include selling their Cuban souls, changing their Cuban lyrics and cancelling their first Cuban performance so they can be marketed in Spain as a new politically-repressed act.
The mulatto Ruy, considers this a betrayal to his country and his art, Tito just recognises the financial necessity and his desire to escape the trap. Throughout all this their families are dealing with breaks ups and heartaches. A boat full of illegal immigrants in the middle of the night leaving behind fathers and families hit me hard and just writing about it again brings tears to my eyes. Seeing the mother pull her daughter from the arms of Ruy wading out in the sea as the boats is leaving is about as tough as it gets. I had hard times in Guatemala when I wanted out of there so badly, but I stayed as I could never have done that to my children or my husband. Separating families is a constant theme here in Cuba, but not just Cuba. How many men leave poor Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico to work in minimum wage jobs in the US and never come come back to their families?
After that I moved swiftly on to Benito’s first film, his opera prima which was shot in Seville on a budget of around $750, 000. His script was selected by the Spanish Ministry of Culture for funding. In this film I see Benito going back to his Spanish roots. The pace is slow but never boring, the economy of language makes the script more powerful and allows for steady but beautiful characterisations. All the people in this film are incredibly believable and all of us have spent lonely times, especially in big anonymous cities even if it is something that is not cool to admit. In the words of Claire Norton-Smith
Solas is a brave film that’s able to address the broader political concerns of poverty, isolation and physical decline from within the concerns of ‘the family’. It stands as a work of immense maturity and warmth and delivers its message without triteness or sentimentality: “Defeat is not the enemy’s triumph,” as Maria’s aged neighbour declares, “Admitting the defeat is”.
I enjoyed Solas and watching the two films one after the other, I appreciated Benito’s ability to make two such different films describing two very different worlds but at the same time exploring humanity regardless of new world, old world differences. If you had watched those two films blind I doubt you would have guessed they were the same director.
Next stop …….
I met Tania Hermida at this years Havana film festival, I think I had met her previously at other festivals but never enough to get to know this bright, funny, kind film maker that even throughout the craziness of the festival and the parties, remembered me and brought me a lovely little gift when she came to my house. Sometimes those little thoughtful things touch you most. She also knows how to tell a good story! Ask her about her first personal encounter with the great Garcia Marquez. ………
I loved her first feature film Que tan lejos, (literally translated how really far ….so something like It’s a long way) which I have just noticed is available to buy on Amazon (so get online and buy it now in the name of supporting great independent film making). Her film could also have the title serendipity or madness just like this blog. It captures beautifully those journeys you make in your life without realizing you are at some kind of crossroad. Or maybe those journeys introduce a crossroad, who knows, just like when I travelled to Guatemala all those years ago. If I ever write my film script, I would love Tania to direct it!
Que tan lejos is a great road movie, a chick flick up there with Thelma and Louise, and a stunning photographical tribute to Ecuador. It tells a story of spontaneous friendships, broken hearts, dead grandmothers and the fun and unexpectedness of travel. You can see Ecuador through the eyes of the two female protagonists one from Madrid, Esperanza who innocently loves to explore new worlds with a fresh openness that you can’t help but like and the cynically self named Ecuadorian literature student, Tristeza who is tired of the tourist cliché of picturesque South America and can’t shake her feeling that she needs to escape to something else. Jesus is a peaceful easy-going lovable character who they meet as he is taking the ashes of his dearly departed grandmother back home. It is a film that flies past fast and all this with a big sense of humour. Buy it watch it and lend it to your friends and then book that flight to Ecuador.
This is just my beginning and I hope in the next few years I will get to watch many more films of the graduates. Poco a poco
PS: This week I saw the Iranian film that won best foreign film at the Oscars. Separation. Powerful stuff. Haven’t felt like that since I saw Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies.