5 live Cinema sets in Havana that are worth a visit
The heritage of Spanish and Cuban colonial architectures coupled with American and Soviet styles has given birth to an uncommon blend that isn’t often seen elsewhere. The openness, charm and most importantly, the character of Cubans who are the result of the mixture of multiple ethnicities insufflate an asthenosphere craved by music video producers and film directors from other geographies. The next 5 places deservedly constitute a testament of the attempt to capture the essence of Cuba.
- “La Guarida” Restaurant
Situated in the municipality of -Centro Habana– this present day restaurant housed in a small palace like construction of the early 20th century served as a set of an icon of Cuban filmography.
Back in the early nineties when it was a regular family apartment it was chosen to shoot scenes of Oscars nominated “Fresa y Chocolate” (1993), a drama intended to make people reflect on intolerance, dialogue and incomprehension.
The current owners have taken the time to preserve the particular ambiance that perfectly resembles the scenes of the film and to make it look just as it does in the movie.
Nowadays the building is still an apartment block where visitors are invited to experience luxury gastronomy embedded in the daily routine of a Cuban neighbourhood. International personalities are a constant, the Kardashians even filmed one of their reality show episodes here, other stars include Rihanna, Heidi Klum, Madonna, Karl Lagerfeld and many others.
- Callejón de Hamel -Hamel’s Alley-
About 200 metres long this art place was born as a community cultural project in 1990 after one of the neighbours asked the Cuban sculptor and painter Salvador González Escalona to decorate the outside of his house. Seeing the state of the other houses he took them as a canvas for the diffusion of the cultural legacy of black slaves in the form of his art. Currently it’s a complex of murals with very lively colours and sculptures inspired by the different religious manifestations that are practised in the country.
Another good reason to visit this place is the music and dance mainly on the Sundays in which drums and rumba rhythms as well as religious dance take hold of the place.
The alley stars in the first persecution scene of “Fast and Furious 8 (2017)” where you can see women performing religious dance.
- Plazoleta del Ángel -Angel Small Square-
In –Old Havana– up on the “Loma del Ángel” hill sits a small square in front of the “Iglesia del Santo Ángel Custodio” church surrounded by beautiful Cuban colonial architecture. It was this particular scenery what led the directors to choose it as a set for the film “Cecilia Valdés (1982)” based on the homonymous novel considered as the most important one of the 19th century in Cuba.
The film touches on racial and class discrimination, intolerance and the ensuing obstacles faced by the main character Cecilia, a mixed race Cuban woman and her lover in the first half of 19th century Cuba in order to fulfil their love.
Currently in the above mentioned square there is a statue of Cecilia Valdés in front of the Church.
- Cementerio de Colón –Columbus Cemetery-
Close to the intersections of 23 and 12, one of the nosiest arteries of Havana lies the Columbus Cemetery. In its 560 000 square metres there is an exclusive variety of sculpturesque and architectonic exponents with an astonishing diversity of styles.
Declared as National Monument in Cuba it is considered as the biggest cemetery in the world and due to its valuable patrimony some researches value it at around 1 billion dollars at today’s market value.
What could be considered as an exclusive open air museum was the set of another Cuban cinematography landmark, “La muerte de un burócrata (1963)” which is a satire criticizing bureaucracy.
The main character has to go through the complicated warp of a bureaucratic system in order to recover the chequebook buried with his uncle by which his aunt will receive her pension. Tired of it he decides to take matters into his own hands by clandestinely exhuming and reburying the dead body which makes him go through a series of black humour situations throughout the movie.
- Museo Armería 9 de Abril -9th of April Gunroom Museum-
In the municipality of -Old Havana- there is a gunroom that holds a passionate history of the revolutionary struggle led by the –July 26 Movement (M-26-7)- that went on in the cities against the Batista Regime.
On the 9th of April 1958 a group of audacious and brave young men assaulted the place with the aim of gathering ammo and guns but the attempt was betrayed and the raiders brutally suffered the consequences. Such scene was successfully reproduced in the film based on the actual events “Clandestinos (1987)”, another milestone in Cuban cinematography.
The place is now a museum and it treasures a valuable collection of firearms, ammo, fishing tools and sports instruments, some of which were part of the original gunroom collection.