Hollywood returns to Cuba for the first time in over 50 years
Shooting for an exciting new biopic depicting the relationship between a young American reporter and Novel Prize winner, Ernest Hemmingway, has just wrapped in Havana, marking the first time in over 50 years that a Hollywood production has obtained permission to film in Cuba.
After years of ill relations between Washington and Havana due to a 52-year-long embargo that’s still in place today, Hollywood returns to the communist shores of Cuba for the filming of a historical biopic that re-tells part of the life of American novelist Ernest Hemmingway and his strong ties with Cuba, where he lived on and off for many years.
In recent weeks an international filming crew that includes Cuban actors has been in the island’s capital filming and re-enacting scenes from Cuba’s history that go from the battles of the rebels to overthrow the corrupt government of Batista to Ernest Hemmingway’s arrival to the city and the places and people he frequented in the island.
Although this biopic is called “Papa” which was Hemmingway’s nickname on the island, the film is actually based on an autobiographical script by Denne Bart Peticlerc, who was a young reporter that admired the Nobel Prize-winning novelist and who developed a special relationship with the writer.
Depicting the budding friendship that blossomed between Peticlerc and Hemminway during the turbulent Cuba of the 50s, this movie will become the first full-length feature film with a Hollywood director and actors to be shot in the island since the triumph of the revolution in 1959.
Bob Yari, the film’s director said:
"It was an absolute passion to actually make it in Cuba where everything that is in the script happened, where the finca (farm) is where (Hemingway) lived, where his boat was, all the spots from the Morro Castle to Cojimar where he fished,"
"It's all here, so trying to duplicate it somewhere else was not very appealing."
Many other movies from the past half century who were set in Cuba have had to be filmed in alternative locations like the Dominican Republic due to the U.S.’s long-standing trade embargo against Cuba that forbids American companies, institutions or organisations to establish commercial ties with the largest of Caribbean islands and ironically, the U.S.’s closest neighbour.
What made this film different to other major Hollywood productions is the fact that it managed to obtain licensing from the U.S. Treasury Department thanks to it classifying as a documentary due to the substantial historic background and depiction of real events that took place in Havana. So, while it’s highly unlikely that any future Hollywood blockbuster would obtain
With years in the making, the shooting in Havana began in March and just wrapped up over the last weekend. The joint Canadian-Cuban-American production counted with the help of the island’s ICAIC film institute, which provided location support, local actors and period costumes.
Access to some of Havana’s most iconic locations was granted to the film crew, including the Revolution Museum who formerly was the Government’s Palace and even unprecedented permission to film inside Finca Vigia, Hemmingway’s former estate, was given, which is quite remarkable considering it’s only been recently opened up to the public and tourists are only allowed to peer in through the windows.
Cuba is packed full of Hemmingway remnants, from the place where he enjoyed his Daiquiris and Mojitos (that would be La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita Bar; he famously said: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita”) to the hotel in which he lived for a brief period of time and partly wrote, For Whom The Bell Tolls, the capital even has a marina named after him. You can easily follow the Hemmingway trail during a Cuba holiday in Havana and still have plenty of time left over to sun on the beach and explore many other cultural attractions that this vibrant city is famous for.
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