Hollywood comes to Havana
Rebels allied with a young Fidel Castro burst into the street outside Havana's Government Palace as soldiers loyal to strongman Fulgencio Batista rain gunfire from above. Steps away, Ernest Hemingway and a young journalist friend dive for cover behind a parked car.
An international film crew in recent weeks has been re-enacting this and other historic scenes in the streets of Havana for "Papa," a biopic about the budding friendship between Hemingway and the reporter in the turbulent Cuba of the 1950s.
Years in the making, producers say it is the first full-length feature film with a Hollywood director and actors to be shot in the country since the 1959 revolution.
Due to decades of ill will between the two countries and Washington's 52-year-long embargo, other movies ostensibly set here, such as "The Godfather Part II" and 1990's "Havana," were filmed in stand-in locations like the Dominican Republic.
"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," director Bob Yari said. "It's all here, so trying to duplicate it somewhere else was not very appealing."
Shooting began in March and wrapped over the weekend on the joint Canadian-Cuban-American production, with the island's governmental film institute known as ICAIC providing location support, period costumes and local actors.
"Papa" came to Cuba under a U.S. Treasury Department license exempting it from most embargo restrictions. The film's makers said there was a cap on how much they could spend, but would not say how much or release overall budget figures.
For licensing purposes the movie qualified as a documentary, since it depicts a firsthand account of real events that took place here. So it's unlikely just any Hollywood blockbuster would get the same permission in the future.
Though the title derives from the Nobel Prize-winning novelist's nickname, the movie is based on an autobiographical script by Denne Bart Petitclerc, who is played by Giovanni Ribisi ("Avatar," ''Saving Private Ryan"). Hemingway is portrayed by theatre and screen veteran Adrian Sparks.
Petitclerc was abandoned by his father as a young boy, fell in love with Hemingway's writing and later came to see him as a father figure.
While working for the Miami Herald in the 1950s, Petitclerc wrote a letter to Hemingway professing his admiration. He didn't intend to send it, but his girlfriend found it and dropped it in the mail.
The film crew got access to some of Havana's most iconic locales, including the former Government Palace, which long ago was turned into a museum celebrating Castro's revolution.
Producers even secured unprecedented permission to shoot inside Hemingway's former estate, Finca Vigia, today considered such a shrine that tourists aren't even allowed inside and must peer in through the windows.
There have also been some only-in-Cuba moments of frustration.
In a country with a history of high-seas defections, something as simple as getting on a boat requires official approval. So when cast members' names were missing from a list one day, an open-water shoot was delayed.
Cuba's scarce and creaky Internet service forced the crew to return to the yesteryear practice of slipping the day's call sheets under hotel room doors, rather than sending them by email.
Much of the equipment had to be brought in from overseas to guarantee high production values.
But the payoff was the opportunity to shoot in a city that has in many ways remained frozen in the 1950s, with classic American automobiles from the era readily available to provide a historic backdrop.
Comments on this story are pre-moderated. Before they appear, comments are reviewed by moderators to ensure they meet our submission guidelines. Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic and be responsible. Comments are open and welcome for three days after the story is published. We reserve the right to close comments before then. Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of Castanet, but only of the comment writer.
Read more Entertainment News
- Property gets paint-balledPenticton / S. Okanagan - 10:22 am
- Thieves on the prowlPenticton / S. Okanagan - 10:29 am
- Flight 17 a possible war crimeWorld - 10:47 am
- Weekly weather forecastCentral Okanagan - 5:00 am
WEST KELOWNA MOVIES
- Kelowna Rotary Centre For The Arts
- Kelowna Sunshine Theatre
- Kelowna Community Theatre
- Kelowna Actor's Studio
- Theatre Kelowna
- Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival
- Shakespeare Kelowna Theatre
- Vernon Powerhouse Theatre
- Penticton Many Hats Theatre Company
- Armstrong Asparagus Community Theatre
- Armstrong Caravan Farm Theatre
- Kelowna Rotary Centre For The Arts
- Chamber Music Kelowna
- Okanagan Festival Singers
- Okanagan Symphony
- Okanagan Jazz & Blues Society
- Ballet Kelowna
- Vernon Jazz Society
- Summerland Singers and Players
- Festivals Kelowna
- Parks Alive!
FILM / RADIO [+]