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014. behind the scenes of havana libre

Carmen: [00:00:00] Welcome to teikirisi, a podcast that celebrates all things cuban American. Hey Fryda.

Fryda: [00:00:13] Hey Carmen. How's it going?

Carmen: [00:00:15] Good today. We're joined by Corey McClean. Seth brown. Corey is a director and Seth brown is the director of photography and the editor of the documentary film, Havana Libre, which centers around the surfing community in Cuba, which by the way, in case you didn't know, there is a surfing community in Cuba, and we are very excited to talk to you guys.

What's up? How are you?

Corey: [00:00:38] Yeah, we're great. Thanks for having us. We're excited to talk to you guys about it,

Seth: [00:00:42] having a good Saturday so far.

Corey: [00:00:44] So Havana Libre is a film that follows primarily two surfers in Cuba, and you learn about what it takes to be a surfer in Cuba, and you also follow them as they try and take steps to legalize the sport in their country.

And the journey takes them ultimately all over the world. But most of what's important is right there in Cuba.

Fryda: [00:01:06] So even though the story is about Cubans with a particular passion, seeing Havana Libre for me, it was, it felt like an opportunity to see Cuba again, after so many years of not being on the island of seeing people. Cubans going about their daily lives.

Carmen: [00:01:24] I assume that you are not and in any way, shape or form Latin American or Cuban for that matter. So how did you end up landing on the story? How did you get to Cuba? How did this happen?

Corey: [00:01:36] Corey speaking, you are correct in your assumption that we are not Latin American.

And when we began the film, we didn't speak any Spanish at all. I'd always had kind of a fascination with Cuba just because it's such a mysterious place to people outside the island. And so I had the opportunity to travel there quite briefly. And in that time I met both of our main characters in the film, Frank and Yaya.

And they sort of just welcomed me in as a friend and started to explain to me what surfing was like there. And it was really just kind of this like exchange of, you know, things that made us excited. And by the end of it, I left Cuba and I was like, wow, like, this is incredible. I had no idea that this scene existed here.

And, you know, you spend so much of your time looking at the Cuba that is sort of stereotypical. And so to get some insight into something that you just don't know exists in a place that you know, so little about you're, you're just, I don't know. I was instantly intrigued. And so I came back to the states and I talked to Seth, who I collaborated on the film with. And we went down there as soon as we could, basically, after that,

Seth: [00:02:43] my mother showed me something after I was like super deep into this project. And she was like, look, I dug up your very first independent project, which was when I was in like, I dunno, maybe third grade. And it was a paper about Cuba. And like, I was like, oh, I have been interested and obsessed with this mysterious island that could we're from Maine like we're from the Northern most part of, besides Alaska, like of the U S and like, as far as you can get from the Caribbean and any element revolving around that. So I feel like for us, it was just like a little spark of this curiosity of the unknown of something different, like radically different. And we're like, okay, Let's go there

Fryda: [00:03:21] and I'd love to hear a little bit more about the discovery and learning process of going from just meeting two people on the island who tell you about what a slice of life is like on the island to actually spending more and more time with them and spending more and more time on this island.

Corey: [00:03:38] I think the biggest thing that we did, right, initially we did a lot of things wrong, but the biggest thing we did right initially is we gave ourselves a long time in Cuba. The first filming trip that we did to Cuba, we went for about three months and we didn't really have money to do that. We took a bunch of other little jobs to basically fund our time to stay longer and longer in Cuba because we knew that we were going in this really transformational time.

We don't speak Spanish. So we're going to need to take longer than we think we do. We want to see what happens here. We want to be here for this moment. To make sure that we're kind of capturing everything as it happens. I think that was really the key to us starting to unlock more knowledge about Cuba, because it's really hard to break through sort of the facade, that tourists experience.

And we experienced that for quite a while. And then it kind of took us screwing up and running out of money and, and sort of like sinking into a bit more of a holistic Cuban experience. To start to unlock that knowledge journey of like, starting to figure out what it actually means to be Cuban.

Seth: [00:04:44] I'm trying to think of the right word to use, but like, there'll be a word for something. And it means one thing, if you've only been there for a week after being there for a month, you start to realize it means this other thing, it really takes serious time as an outsider to just understand the most basic things in Cuban culture.

Fryda: [00:05:04] Why do you think that is?

Corey: [00:05:05] I don't know. It seems like everything in Cuba is super nuanced. Cuba's got kind of this like manicured image, you know, like the old cars is sort of like nostalgic appeal and there is like a whole apparatus, that's sort of designed for people to kind of funnel through an experience. And that's really beautiful in its own way. But, you know, I think most people who, who visit Cuba and, and kind of get off the beaten path a little bit, everyone comes back and says, oh, the people they're so welcoming, it's always people want to talk to you.

They want to share stories. They want to hear about your life. They're curious. They just, they want to connect. And I think that when you're there for a short period of time, maybe it has like, you know, a superficial impact on you. But when you're there for a longer time and you're starting to bond with people, And you see the beauty of Cuba in a much deeper level that there is this whole cultural beauty outside of the physical aesthetic beauty.

Seth: [00:05:57] And another thing I think that we unwittingly had going for us in order to like break through these barriers and actually be prepared to listen to what we were receiving as feedback. Kind of was the process of trying to make a film being drastically under-prepared and us Corey and I, and our other partner, Marco, who was with us and eventually a few other people came and visited and this whole process of creating this film over this long period of time and trying to survive cause like we just straight up moved. Like that's how it felt. We just ditched where we were at, went to this new place, didn't know anything. And we're like, how do we survive? That whole artistic process was causing us to go through significant self-reflection as friends, artists and collaborators and then that would sort of like open up parallels to kind of what Frank was going through as he's trying to build these surfboards with absolutely no resources. And then Frank, and everyone's like kind of sharing in our experience of being bumbling filmmakers, trying to understand what the heck we're doing.

And that I think helped break barriers a little bit because everyone was like, oh, we're all just kind of young and trying to figure it out. And now we're sharing this experience of figuring this stuff out together and the stories kind of intertwined. And then Corey and I were like, great. We're pulling ourselves out of the story completely.

This isn't has nothing to do with us, get ourselves out of here.

Carmen: [00:07:18] So for those of you that don't know, surfing has a really complicated history in Cuba because for the most part, Cuban nationals are not allowed on the waters for many historical problems, which if you watch the film, you'll understand a little bit more of, although that is not the main focus of the film.

However, it does present the tension where you have this group of people who are trying to do this thing, which is surfing and they're not allowed to do it, but it's, it's such a passion that is burning so strongly inside that they're like, no, we're going to go find stuff to make surf boards out of.

Because by the way, there are no surf boards for purchase or borrowing or renting in Cuba. Well, that's what we're talking about. The fact that this is not allowed, it's not facilitated in any way and still somehow people are out there, resolviendo.

Corey: [00:08:09] That's really what kind of drew us into the story initially was this idea that Cubans have this spirit of, we can make whatever we, we put our minds to, with what we have here in Cuba.

And that's, you know, that story goes across all kinds of different facets of Cuban life. Car mechanics, making parts out of whatever they can find that just don't belong in the car, but somehow they put it together and they make it work. And so the Cuban surfboard story, these guys basically dissecting magazine photos from old surf magazines and being like, oh, okay, I see the board curves like this, you know, that string down the middle.

Like, what do they make that out of? I wonder. And you know, this story of sort of experimenting and ripping refrigerator foam out of refrigerators that they find on the street to carve the blank shape of the board. You're like, oh, this is. Fascinating, you know, and it's so far from our sort of consumerist life here in the west, where if it breaks, you get a new one for us, that was like, what brought us back.

And then as we started to tell or figure out what story we were going to tell, we were like, oh, the story is less about this. That's a piece of it, but it's really about the people who are doing it.

Carmen: [00:09:16] A lot of stories that are written and told and filmed about Cuba and about Cubans have. Well, they typically kind of end up missing the mark and they lack a lot of the nuance that Havana Libre presents.

And so I wanted to ask you a little bit more, I know in a sense, you kind of addressed it already, you know, time and being able to immerse yourself in with people and the culture. But that being said, I noticed that the main focus of the film is not necessarily political, even though politics are at the center of literally everything in Cuba. So I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that decision and how you were able to, as an outsider, approach it in a much more sensitive manner.

Seth: [00:09:58] That was the most difficult part of making this film straight up.

Corey: [00:10:01] When we first started it, we didn't speak Spanish. And so we'd kind of gone down with this idea that we were going to make this sort of hybrid film, where one of us would narrate to give this like American perspective on the film.

The more we started going down that road. We were like, this is so cringe. And we have like, we don't need to inject ourselves into this story. And you know, what brought us down for three months in the first place was all of the political change. And so for us, we were so fascinated by that and sort of like obsessed with it that we sort of tried to like force it down their throats, you know, interview after interview being like, how cool is this?

Like, don't you think this is going to change everything? We are constantly kind of getting these responses that were like, you know, we'll see, we'll see. And we're like, aren't you excited? You know, the same question over. And they're like, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, sort of, and over time we started putting the film together and we're sort of like fitting these what, like round pegs in a square hole.

We're like, we need to make sure that this political element comes across. And when we stepped back and looked at it, we were like, you know, this feels so contrived, ultimately. Politics sort of affects everything there, but there is this sort of, for good reason, disbelief that the process is going to reward them.

You know? So they've for so long, they've heard, yeah, this is the time that it's going to change. This is going to be the thing that, that makes everything different for you. And it never really pays off. And they're very aware of that. And so for them, the whole political issue was really a non-issue.

They're like, this is a thing that's sort of happening in the background. But this is not front and center in our lives. So we basically reshaped everything to better reflect that this is what politics actually represents in their world.

Fryda: [00:11:49] Can you explain exactly what political situation you're referring to?

Seth: [00:11:53] It was actually 2016 and we didn't really know what was going to happen, but we knew if Obama was going to Cuba, something's going down.

And that was the sort of window of opportunity that Corey. This is a tangent Corey like dragged me down. I was like, no, no, no, we gotta go plan, man. We gotta like do this. Right. We're going to go to Cuba. We should really, he's like, no, I'm going, I'm going. And you're coming or you're not coming at all. And I was like, damn it.

So, so because of that, like the political situation was all of the headlines and the headlines on our side. Once we started like getting on the internet down there and like sort of looking at how the world was looking. It's like, Obama's going the first time a president's there and like 80 years and like there's headlines of Wolf Blitzer and all the American channels that are on and all the hotels, and even in the Cuban newspapers, the local ones were like the perspective was different, which was really fascinating to be looking at and trying to decipher as we were learning Spanish slowly, but surely. But like different things were happening. Like Cubans could work now and credit cards could be spent in Cuba. And like this like travel restrictions were a little different suddenly. Frank was shaping a board one day and his and his mom's there. And she's like, look at this like headline. And it had basically had to do with. Cubans being able to spend money and hired by American companies. And we were just like, oh, that's cool. And they were like, this is huge. And we're like, oh, cool. At that point, we'd kind of realized like all of our preconceived notions are very fucking off.

Fryda: [00:13:22] Here's the thing I know you said that you went from trying to capitalize. That's a funny word, trying to capitalize on a political moment, but while the film did not necessarily end up focusing on this political moment, It does end up showing how embedded domestic politics and social political situations are in the lives of everyday Cubans. How did that end up becoming part of the story?

Corey: [00:13:53] after we sort of had to throw our plans out the window and we started, once we started to realize what we didn't know, it kind of made us rethink everything a little bit, and we were really aware. This is not our culture. You know, when we started, we're like, okay, this is our perception of Cuban culture, and this is the film that we're going to make.

And we didn't really understand that it was just our perception. And the more time we spent there, we started to realize, wow, like we don't know as much about this country as we think we do. And so it kind of pivoted us into learning mode and we did tons of interviews and we dissected the transcripts and started to kind of form an opinion that we felt was more accurate.

And, you know, just talking more and more with Frank and Yaya and a lot of the other Cubans that were involved in helping us make the film, it just sort of helped us to sort of get closer to the mark and understand what their relationship was with politics and understand how things work in Cuba.

Everything in Cuba requires explanation because everything is so different and unique. Just in the way that it's structured, the way the power works, the way that politics work, the way that day-to-day life works, everything requires explanation. And if you get too caught up in explaining everything, You know, you're opening Pandora's box.

Carmen: [00:15:09] This immediately makes me think of Yaya. She is basically spearheading the movement towards trying to get the sport legitimized or at least recognized. We see Yaya over and over again. I mean, it's painful. We see her trying to. Call all of the offices that have the power to make this a thing. We see them hanging up on her.

We see them blowing her off. We see her just like trying every window after every door is closed. And even at some points, you almost think like all the windows are closed. Are you going to like blow a hole through the wall? Like, what are you going to do now? And I really appreciated how much you said without saying so much without like explicitly explaining like el INDER is the, you know, organization that does X, Y, and Z. You just see Yaya calling every day. Anybody who's ever been on hold with customer service is like, oh my God, this is the worst. I wanted to ask a little bit more about those specific decisions either from the editing perspective, because I know how it is when you're shooting, you just shoot everything.

And then when it comes to editing, you're like, okay, now I have to put it together into something. How did all of that story come together?

Seth: [00:16:14] The process of discovery in this moment was. Making iteration after iteration after basically I've seen this story in different versions, like probably like 80 times.

And. Is the only way to like really eventually let your instincts like filter things out because there's moments where like, like that scene of Yaya calling or the scenes used to be multiple scenes of Yaya calling. And eventually we were like something about this isn't quite right. And you know, this was like maybe three cuts ago.

And we were like, okay, maybe this part is over-dramatic now because, because we've changed all these other things that we are starting to like, so at this point in the film, like eventually it starts telling itself like these scenes fit together perfectly. It would just start to like, kind of cut itself, which for all your budding filmmakers out there is probably the most annoying thing to hear ever.

Because like, when it does as a film actually cut itself, this is like the biggest bullshit answer you've ever been told by a professor. But like in a moment, it actually eventually starts to do it, but that's only because you've cut it like 80 times.

Corey: [00:17:24] I, I will say a lot of it too is like that thing that I said earlier about how everything needs an explanation. I think that was the big thing for us as we first made a film that was like two and a half hours long. And you know what you mentioned about INDER, like having to painstakingly explain INDER, it was really hard for us to decide what things needed that, but so like, how do you communicate. In particular, like the phone calls with Yaya like for us we're there and we're like, oh, wow, this is so important.

Like she's emerging kind of from the shadows and making these phone calls and like putting them in the public eye of the government. And so we're like, okay, we can't just have a thing that comes in and explains like, it's really hard if the government is all of a sudden looking at you and they don't like what you're doing.

So we're, we're trying to like figure out, okay. So why is this a big moment? What needs to happen earlier in the film for you to better understand the relationship with the government? Like you need to know that they're, it's not about asking for forgiveness. Everything is kind of based around asking for permission.

And so establishing that relationship with the government early on is super important to making that actually pay off when Yaya is making calls. And so there were like a lot of moments like that, or. We need to figure out how to make people care about this in the right way, without beating them over the head with all of the sort of like history book reasons.

Fryda: [00:18:47] You know, Carmen and I were both Cuban American and we were born in Cuba and raised by Cuban parents. So our relationship with the film is that a lot of the things that remained unspoken could remain unspoken for anyone else or for someone who might not be so tuned into some of the references. I kind of wonder what kind of story they end up perceiving.

So have you shown this to other people?

Seth: [00:19:15] We've shown this to everybody, we kind of could along the way to try to make sure that we weren't off the mark or at least cause again, the same thing. We're like the one thing we've learned this whole process let's keep in mind is that like, we really do not know what is really the current of things unless we start kind of taking this slightly bigger perspective and stepping back. So in the process of editing, we're like, there's no reason why this has changed. Let's start showing it to people and sort of see what happens. And we would show it to different people for different reasons. Like Leslie for example, she's a consulting producer and she connected us for this podcast.

We were like, okay, Leslie, are we super offensive off the mark? How is the Spanish, like what's going on here. And she was a great back board and started putting in more suggestions and ideas that we hadn't quite and kind of put together. Cause again, like we're two white guys. We can only go so far.

Corey: [00:20:06] We shot so many different scenes and trying to include the right stuff represent Yaya and Frank represent Frank, and the two of them represent the whole Cuban story in as natural a way that we could figure out how to put together. Like it was really, really hard and a lot of people were really helpful in kind of guiding us to make sure that we were going in the right direction.

Carmen: [00:20:32] How long did it take to make this film or to shoot it?

Corey: [00:20:36] All in like five years

Carmen: [00:20:37] was there a moment when you finally realized, okay, now this is not just pretty stuff. Now, this is like really getting into the thick of the story,

Corey: [00:20:49] probably around like the mid point of the film as you're actually watching the film. We'd sort of like lost the plot a little bit. When we were filming, we know were shooting really cool stuff.

We know that we've got a story here, but we don't totally know what it is. When we first started filming Yaya was very intent on building a case. She was essentially wanting to put together material that could convince the government, that surfing was going to be a good thing for Cuban society and that it should be a sport in the country.

And so she was super eager and like kind of leading us around by the risks. And you're like, oh, like, you need to check this out. Like you need to meet these people. We should go here and film this at times it felt like we were her film crew, you know, helping her make this presentation. And there was a lot of collaboration in that and we ended up putting together this petition video, to try and get support from the global surf community to show the government that the Cubans had this place amongst that world. And that this world was bigger than they might know about. But you ended up all putting that video online and the video went viral and. It kind of kicked off this whole series of events.

And that was, I think when we realized we have something that one people are really interested in and to a story building here that is really kind of gaining momentum and scope. And that was when we sort of put our heads together and we're like, oh, wow. Where is this going to go? And like what, what story needs to be told amongst all this?

Fryda: [00:22:19] It must be really mind boggling to be involved in a project where you're, you're filming something. And then you end up creating a smaller film within the film halfway through that propels the actual story forward. And I think that shows just how much you all, as film producers are impacting the ecosystem of the Cuban set that surrounds you, like you're in communication with them. And so I wonder if, if at any point you thought through what your philosophy was of like, to what degree were you going to be observing versus collaborating versus co-conspiring with the people whose stories you're trying to tell.

Seth: [00:23:01] I might come off a little naive here, but this story, there are moments where you see things happening and you realize like, oh, this film suddenly has this degree of breaking the fourth wall, where people are going to watch it. And they're going to start realizing, oh, the power of making a story and telling that story has this impact on others and it creates these ripples. And therefore, whenever I actually stop to like do this small thing. And like social media obviously has been showing how impactful it is on these very different levels. That concept of different layers did start to become a possibility. Some people were like, you should put yourselves in it more.

And we're like, no, like pull back, pull back. But there is this element suddenly we're like, okay, if we're successful here, we managed to make a story that actually tells all these pieces. There's going to be a part of the audience who sees this and says, oh, Hey, I like, I resonate kind of from that storyteller point of view.

And if I can go tell this story about, say my neighbor or this person in the street, or if I go to a different country and try to learn about people and tell their story, maybe there will be this sort of like, maybe there can be help or it can be different or change. And I'll say immediately, if that's your dream, don't go do it, because that probably means you're showing up there just like we did with this preconceived notion of, oh, I'll show up and make something. And it's not what it should

Corey: [00:24:21] Back to your original question about like, you know, observing versus influencing. I don't think that we were sharp enough to actually consider that. I think we were really in like, you know, high school skate movie mode, a lot of the time in Cuba where we're like, You guys just did something super cool. And when we filmed it, like put it online and there was a lot of that where we weren't necessarily considering, like, is this good journalistic practice?

Is this how Werner Hertzog would have done it? We just like, kinda did it. We didn't like step in. Be like, Hey, like you should do this because this would be super good for the marketability of the film.

Carmen: [00:25:17] I think that this really speaks to the idea of integrity versus heart. And I think that those two shouldn't be versus each other, but rather, you know, walking hand in hand, if I can get a little poetic here, but I also wanted to sort of bring it back a little bit more to an actual personal tie. You guys understand the idea of surfer culture and you serve how, if at all, you've considered that that actually did help you make this film what it actually is?

Corey: [00:25:45] Like if being surfers helped us make the film better?

Carmen: [00:25:49] That's a much better way of putting that question.

Corey: [00:25:52] Yes and no, we didn't want to make a film for surfers. Being surfers helped us, I think, figure out the important things about surf lifestyle that might resonate with. We aren't, we aren't like lifelong surfers, you know, we've been surfing for like the last decade.

So I think we knew enough about not being surfers to, to hopefully help translate that to non surfers, but surfing is also like it's, it's pretty analogous to anything meditative, any sort of internal process to medicate yourself. It's an escape. It's a release. It's this adrenaline it's camaraderie, it's friendship. But the big thing is if that means so much to somebody, you can't take that away.

Fryda: [00:26:51] Frank, at some point in the film described that he felt as if he's caught under a wave and I'm paraphrasing I don't really have the exact quote, but there's so many references throughout the film to water and to surfing and to that relationship, like it's just naturally brought in by the characters and also by the visuals in the film. And Cuba has so many beautiful scenes in the water. Part of the film that really showcased the beauty of Cuba and the waters is, is you all went on a trip. I don't want to spoil it for folks, but you all end up going on a sort of road trip.

Seth: [00:27:24] Corey. And I were like, dude, no, one's explored this island. Corey's like, yeah, like we got to go explore this island. One of his dreams is to go explore the silent. We're like, okay, we're all thinking the same thing here.

Let's, let's go fucking do it. And that became like really important because of what they discover

Corey: [00:27:41] Back to that uh, the metaphor, I think a lot of this is it's like a journey for personal freedom and expression, and there are a lot of modes to achieve personal expression and internal freedom. You know, artists, athletes, they share a lot of similarities and it's this quest to like get something inside out.

And I think one of the big things in Cuba is this idea of sameness and that, and conformity, and we quickly realized that we were filming a small group of people who were not willing to, to be a part of that. You know, when you feel a certain level of ambition, Energy and excitement and, and anger and frustration and all these things bubbling inside you and you need an outlet.

I think for them, it's really about breaking out of the sameness and that metaphor of being underwater is you're craving something just off the shore. And you feel like you're being held down by kind of like what you're supposed to be. And this film is in essence is about something so simple surfing, like seems so innocuous.

It doesn't seem like something that should be a hot topic. And this one simple thing that they want to do is made so hard. How long are you going to wait to do this thing that is vital to your, your well-being?

Carmen: [00:29:13] This episode is going to be part of the season that we're currently publishing right now, season two, which is all about art and artistry.

And when we were thinking about how this particular piece fits into the larger theme of art and art history, I mean, obviously you guys made a film and it's quite beautiful and it is a piece of art, but I, the thing that really struck out to me the most is how two people who are entire outsiders came into a place as closed off as Cuba with all of these ideas of what the story should be like and then ended up actually discovering something totally different, which we've been talking about at length here. We would love to see more of that happen. And so it sort of begs the question of how you can be an ally and how you can be someone that elevates voices that are not your own, but at the same time, still make it personal to you, which is really what we're trying to get at here.

Corey: [00:30:09] I think for us, I mean, we've spent a lot of time reflecting on sort of the process, because I think there are a lot of ways to do that. And, you know, I think we still feel like we could do it better as well. I think a lot of it just boils down to genuine interest and patience. And so often you find yourself feeling kind of rushed. And when you're rushed, you have to have a perfect plan and you've got to stick to that. And it doesn't leave a whole lot of time for growth and change. And I think once we sort of got into the rhythm of realizing that things were going to constantly be shifting beneath our feet and we had to sort of react and figure it out as we went, it was really eye-opening for us and I think we're going to incorporate that into our future processes for all of, all of our, our future projects. Once you can kind of strip away your ego and strip away everything that you thought you knew and what you think needs to happen, you start to better connect with the subjects.

Carmen: [00:31:08] Why did you name it Havana Libre?

Corey: [00:31:10] When we first went to Cuba there was only one place that we could connect to the outside world and it was the Havana Libre hotel. And it's sort of this like, Corporate epicenter of the city and it costs $10 for an hour of internet. And we just found that so fascinating. And to us, it kind of represented the struggle to connect with the outside world.

These people who make $20 a month, can't spend $10 for an hour of internet. So for us, it was like, so counterintuitive. It means Havana free and yet it's anything but, and so it's this big tower that you can see from so many places in the city. We just thought like the title represented what our subjects were chasing. The symbol sort of represents both revolution, but also sort of corporatism

Seth: [00:32:04] It's a dichotomy that is what so many people in their own countries are dealing with in many different ways. And we just thought that like from the surface level, it sounds really nice. And like, oh, it's about her new free Havana, like great. And then on the inside, it's like these exact opposite.

Carmen: [00:32:23] Have Yaya and Frank watched the film?

Seth: [00:32:25] Yes.

Corey: [00:32:25] Yeah.

Carmen: [00:32:26] Cuz they've seen

Seth: [00:32:26] They've seen other versions, there was this great moment where we showed them a cut, like maybe three cuts ago and they were like, hm. And then they're like, you need something. And then like three days later they got back and they were like, okay, we figured it out. It's called a screenwriter. And we're like, ah, nice.

Fryda: [00:32:42] Burn! That's such a burn.

Corey: [00:32:45] Yeah, they didn't really sugarcoat it either. They were like, this is. You. You worked really hard and this is not very good.

Carmen: [00:32:55] That reminds me of my parents. My parents have zero problems being like, I can't believe I birthed you. This is crap.

Fryda: [00:33:01] Yeah. Both of our parents, it took them like five episodes of our podcast before they were just like, oh, maybe this'll be good if we weren't your parents, we wouldn't listen to this. But I feel like since then, they've turned the corner.

Carmen: [00:33:14] Yeah, now they're like, our daughters are geniuses.

Corey: [00:33:16] In our defense. We knew they weren't going to like the cut that we made before. But a lot of it too is like, is this part too inflammatory? Is this part too this is this part too that. And they were like, yup. Most of it is bad. This thing will get us in trouble. This thing is not important.

Carmen: [00:33:34] I'm very glad you're bringing that up. We're interviewing people from the island and every time we put something out, we're like, are these people going to get arrested? Like crap, talk to us a little bit more about weighing that decision. Like, is this going to be a problem and trying to look out for your subjects?

Corey: [00:33:49] We've had to wrestle with that a lot. And a lot of it has been really making sure that we don't sensationalize topics, but also, I mean, it's a really hard tight rope to walk because if you play it too safe, you don't really communicate the reality.

And if you play it too loud, you know, you, you might do more harm than good. At some stage though. Like we have to take cues from Frank and Yaya and do what they're comfortable with and, you know, they, they want to change the situation there. And so I think they're well aware that some of that involves taking certain risks, but also putting it out there in some ways is ideally a little bit of a shield too, you, you know, if you make yourself heard to enough people, you've, you're kind of creating your safety a little bit, but yeah, it was a hard one because you don't, you never really know what's going to be okay and what's not, and that can kind of change day to day.

Fryda: [00:34:49] So how, and when can our listeners watch this film and its final form?

Seth: [00:34:55] We're gonna begin playing the final cut in the fall at festivals, the cut that you've seen was like our rough fine cut.

We basically got into a festival and we were like, well, we need a deadline. Let's just get as good as we can by this. And then we'll reassess one more time like we we're doing, and now we're kind of buttoning up that reassessment and planning basically how to get it seen in a really organic grassroots way. Our plan is definitely to have it ready by September, probably on a video on demand platform.

Carmen: [00:35:27] Where can people go to keep up with any updates,

Seth: [00:35:30], and then our Instagram is havanalibrefilm.

Corey: [00:35:35] Thank you for having us on your podcast. I think it's amazing that you guys are doing this and we're really stoked that you took interest in what we're doing amongst all of it.

Seth: [00:35:44] Yeah. No. The fact that you guys have like found this thing that you really blinders on care about and can push everything else aside. That's like the that's the creative pathway. That's like the best thing when you find that

Fryda: [00:35:56] yeah. You know, it, it helps to do it with a friend that you've known for awhile

Carmen: [00:36:01] facts, facts. So thank you guys so much for sharing your story with us. Thank you so much for your time. So Fryda, what's our cubanismo this time

Fryda: [00:36:11] Guapeando la pelota.

Carmen: [00:36:12] And what does that mean?

Fryda: [00:36:13] Let's break down the words, guapeando means to put on a front, like un Guapo, right? Like a cute guy. I don't know. This is my really rudimentary understanding of some Spanish words. Y la pelota means the balls.

Carmen: [00:36:28] I've heard it my whole life as sort of a fake it till you make it or a kind of do the best that you can with what you have. And that's what that means. I, I don't know where the ball comes from. Honestly. I've never asked and I just I dunno,

Fryda: [00:36:44] one thing I'm thinking of is imagine juggling something difficult, but you have to do it like un Guapo.

You know that you got to look good doing it. Pretend it's easy to do that. Juggling act. Tell us how we might use this in the context of a sentence.

Carmen: [00:36:58] If you will watch, Havana Libre and you're watching these people scrambling for materials to make surf boards, guapeando la pelota and even the filmmakers, his entire conversation, the difficulties of not knowing the language of trying to establish relationships with people and trying to get the story, trying to craft the story while not understanding the cultural context of it all coming from a different background and still managing to make something amazing happen.

They were also guapeando la pelota. and if you're talking in Spanish, you might be describing something difficult that you're doing, but you're still trying to do it. And then the response is bueno tu sabes, ahi hay que seguir guapeando la pelota. So you just gotta keep going

Fryda: [00:37:40] folks. look, sigue guapeando la pelota no matter what. Okay. Cause that's, that's the only, that's our only choice sometimes.

Thank you

Carmen: [00:37:49] all so much for listening to this episode and a big warm. Thank you to our patrons, Yamaisi, Christine, Peter Dee Derek, Andy Ryan, Jose, Susan Salia, Catherine Lauren, Kayleigh, Amaury, Kristen, Sarah, Karena, Jason Daniel, Josh Yvette, Kellis, and Jesse, we love you all so much. If you want to reach us, we are at And if you're looking for us on social media, we are at teikirisipod on all the platforms

Fryda: [00:38:14] and folks don't forget. We have an NFT out on opensea. You can purchase it or share it around. The majority of the proceeds will support Cuban artists on the island.

Corey: [00:38:26] Hey folks, take it easy.

Fryda: [00:38:30] Take it easy.

Corey:[00:38:30] Don't use that one.

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