Frenzy in Cuba as Rihanna records Havana music video

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Foreign film directors flock in as Cuba opens up to outside world.

As film locations go, Cuba has got pretty much everything: a rich and turbulent history, the faded glamour of its capital Havana and a world-renowned music scene.HAVANA—The thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba has led to a stunning 36 per cent increase in visits by Americans to the island, including thousands who are flying into Cuba from third countries like Mexico in order to sidestep U.S. restrictions on tourism.Havana – Singer Rihanna visited Cuba, where no sooner did she arrive earlier this week than she decided to enjoy native dishes and dance at a well-known Havana restaurant, La Fontana, the owner confirmed to EFE. The dramatic rise was seen in the number of Americans with no family ties to Cuba who visited between Jan. 1 and May 9 of this year compared to the same period in 2014, according to statistics provided to The Associated Press by a University of Havana professor.

The pop diva from Barbados arrived on Wednesday from the United States on a private flight and, after landing, went out into the capital city, turning up unannounced at the La Fontana “paladar,” as privately-owned restaurants are called in Cuba, the establishment’s owner, Ernesto Blanco, said. “She came directly from the airport because she wanted to eat Cuban food,” said Blanco, who managed to have his photo taken next to Rihanna, a snapshot that the restaurant immediately posted to its Facebook page and spread in social media on Thursday. Inline skating, once popular, has fallen off in favor of skateboards. “If I tell you how I got this, you will laugh,” said Andrea Hernández, a 27-year-old former tour guide carrying her colorfully painted skateboard along the Paseo del Prado promenade. “I built this. According to Blanco, Rihanna spent about two hours at La Fontana along with three companions in what seems to be a trip with relatives or friends, and she was accompanied by a “strong security team.” “She asked for two plates of food, a daiquiri. People gave me the parts.” Skateboarding is another example of how Cubans have learned to make do as they try to emulate trends elsewhere that have not received official sanction in the island nation. Much as the lack of Internet connections has given rise to semi-clandestine services that download Western movies and television shows to portable hard drives that allow viewers to stay current on the latest entertainment on their home computers, skateboarders have found work-arounds to pursue a passion that is not yet officially recognized as a sport or recreational activity.

He also said that Rihanna enjoyed classics of Cuban music while at the restaurant, including “La Guantanamera,” and she danced to the “son” rhythms played by the restaurant’s band. David Perez, a New Yorker who works in public relations, travelled to Cuba in May through Cancun. “I had just always wanted to go to Cuba and I decided now was the time,” he said.

Earlier this month, the LA production company Broad Green Pictures said it was preparing a sequel to the music documentary Buena Vista Social Club, to be made by British director Lucy Walker. The first, Havana Autos and Architecture, is being produced in collaboration with the architect Norman Foster, based on the book he wrote of the same name with Mauricio Vicent.

Their owners have fought to preserve them, in spite of a lack of spare, and to ensure they look as shiny as the day they left the showroom. “He [Lord Foster] is making a link between the architecture and the cars,” Bosch explains of the feature-doc, which will tell six stories of owners who keep their cars going “forever and ever”. But in January, after President Barack Obama announced detente with Cuba’s communist government, “we eased the travel regulations,” Chemali said. Overseeing the crew is Yojany Pérez Rivera, whose dreadlocks fly in the wind as he barrels up and down ramps, among the most veteran of Cuban skateboarders. “We’ve been trying to teach people that it’s not a kids’ thing, that it’s an art form, like photography.

It’s a way to express yourself,” said Pérez, whose friends call him by his nickname, “Mamerto,” the rough equivalent of “dummy.” He doesn’t seem insulted. Meanwhile, Bosch is also preparing a new feature doc called Churchill and Cuba, looking at the British political titan’s long engagement with Cuba – and with its cigars. Charter companies flying travellers from the U.S. to Cuba say travellers now need only “self-certify” that their trip falls under a permitted category. “The person calling us needs to tell me, ‘I’m going in support of the Cuban people, or professional research, or a family visit,’” or any one of the 12 allowed categories, said Tessie Aral of ABC Charters. He first visited the country around the time of the Spanish-American independence war of the late 1890s and, much later, wrote his Iron Curtain speech on the island, “while running around in Havana smoking cigars”. After that, “all they do is sign a certification.” The federal register states that travellers “must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions” for five years, but what those records consist of is not spelled out, and Aral said travel providers are not required to review travellers’ itineraries or receipts.

Bob Guild of Marazul Tours, another charter company, worries that some travellers may be viewing the process of planning a trip to Cuba too casually by claiming that they’re going for a sanctioned purpose when in fact they are going on vacation. But Guild acknowledges that “there’s a disconnect” between what’s on paper and what’s happening. “It’s a foggy land right now,” he said.

Attorney Robert Muse, an expert on the legal aspects of Cuba travel, says “there’s been almost no active enforcement” of the tourism ban under the Obama administration. Fidel Castro himself visited the film set during shooting, only a few weeks after overthrowing the Batista regime. “The stories of Graham Greene in Cuba will surprise a lot of people. A short English-language documentary that came out in 2007, “Cuban Skateboard Crisis,” raised awareness in the global skateboard community of the difficulties of obtaining boards in Cuba. “I saw that and thought, ‘That’s pretty harsh,’” said Scott McDonald, 41, a lifelong Canadian skateboarder from Hamilton, Ontario. The fourth of Bosch’s Cuban films is about the hell-raising Hollywood star Errol Flynn’s experiences in Cuba in the twilight of his life, when he was friendly with Castro.

That’s why they take this liberalized approach to travel.” The Cuban government did not respond to a request for comment, but Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero recently said visitors were up by 30 per cent and that Cuba was willing to accept the increase. As for those rushing to see Cuba “before it changes,” Muse said, they think that in the future “there are going to be Burger Kings on every corner.

It’s an awesome feeling,” McDonald said. “It’s the only (skateboard) scene in the world that’s 100 percent completely dependent on the generosity of others.” “When I saw it, I was really attracted. For example, the Starsky & Hutch star David Soul has been involved in Cuban Soul, a film in which he helps the Cubans rebuild Ernest Hemingway’s long-lost 1955 Chrysler New Yorker, which was found recently in a near ruined condition. “In terms of doing fiction films, we are still legally some way away,” Bosch said, explaining the reason for the current focus on documentary films. “To do a fiction film with US actors is complicated because the money they are paid would be earned [there] and would break the embargo.” In scripted letters across his chest reads an English-language tattoo: “We are the generation of different concepts.” Rene Lecour, the son of Cuban immigrants to South Florida, is a founder of Amigo Skate Cuba and a former skateboard shop owner.

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