Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Luis Moro Resurfaces

Those of you who read BabaluBlog may remember Luis Moro. To tell you the truth I had forgotten all about him, so if you want a quick refresher click here, here or here.

This morning I was listening to WQBA and I caught the end of an interview with a filmmaker who was talking about his film which was made in Cuba and is showing at the AMC Theater at Cocowalk in Miami. Like I said I only caught the tail end but I did catch the fact that the movie was not authorized by the Cuban government or the U.S. Government (i.e. the filmmaker didn't have the proper license to go to Cuba for this purpose). I also heard the gentleman on the radio say he was against the embargo but that we should be able to disagree about that. I was curious about the movie (as I am about anything to do with Cuba) and so I decided to swing by Cocowalk and see it since my wife was working late tonight.

When I was leaving the theater after the movie I introduced myself to Mr. Moro who is one of the lead actors in the movie as well as the filmmaker I had heard on the radio. I still hadn't put two and two together but when I mentioned that I write for BabaluBlog he told me that he gotten ripped pretty badly there. It was only when I got home and searched the Babalu archives that I remembered the details of the events of last year that are documented in the above linked posts.

Now if you click on those links you'll see that there have been some accusations made about Mr. Moro's views, his movie and the way he and his crew acted while they were in Cuba filming. Although I can't substantiate anything one way or the other my thoughts on these issues are at the bottom of this post, but first I want to talk about the film.

The name of the movie is Love & Suicide and it's about as apolitical as a film about Cuba can be. It's the personal story of Tomas (played by Kamar de los Reyes). Tomas is an American tourist in Cuba, but as the film progresses we learn that he's not an ordinary tourist. Tomas is suicidal but he is brought back from the abyss by Nina (Daisy McCrackin) who is also visiting Cuba as a tourist and Alberto (Luis Moro) the Cuban taxi driver that Tomas has hired for the duration of his visit. I don't want to give too much of the plot away but we get to see Havana, warts and all, while Alberto and Nina help Tomas confront his past which, as we become aware during the course of the film, is in Cuba.

I can tell you that if I saw the film and didn't know anything about Luis Moro and his politics I would recommend it. It's only an hour and half long and the story is interesting enough to keep your attention throughout. In fact, as one learns more about Tomas one can't help but become more emotionally invested in him.

Now about Mr. Moro, his views on the embargo and the serious accusations made against him:

My thoughts on the embargo have been expressed many times on this blog and at Babalu so I'm not going to spend any time on it here except to say that while I don't agree with Mr. Moro about the embargo I agree with him that we can disagree in a civil manner. As he correctly states there are many people that are against castro that are also against the embargo. I think these people are well-intentioned but wrong. And I remind the reader that there are also a lot of castroites that are against the embargo too.

Mr. Moro was very cordial when I spoke to him and I find it hard to believe a lot of the accusations that were levied against him in the comments section of the above linked posts. After watching the movie I assure the reader that the accusation that the cast and crew was afraid to leave their hotel and see the real Cuba is baseless. The film was made all over Havana and what you see is a third world country. Also many local Cubans act in the film. I think some of the best performances are given by the Cubans, which would have been hard to accomplish if the they had been treated as poorly as Moro's accuser claims.

As far as violating the travel restrictions goes Mr. Moro claims that they were in Cuba under a legal pretext, to screen another of his movies, when they filmed Love & Suicide.

In the end I can only tell you to judge for yourself. The film is playing through Sunday at Cocowalk in Miami.

9 comments:

gansibele said...

Not to take away the importance of babalu and the work Val (and you and the other contributors do) but the comments are full of ad-hominem attacks and baseless accusations of all sorts. I don't think anonymous attacks are serious at all. One wart on an otherwise fine blog.

BTW, I went ot see "Cercania" last night at the Roxy theater (16st and 107 avenue). It's a film made by a Cuban director, Rolando Diaz, who is now exiled in Spain. He made a film while in Cuba, "Lejania"; that was somewhat controversial, because it was the first time a visitor from Miami had been portrayed in an official movie with some degree of symphaty, i.e: she wasn't denigrated as a "gusana". "Lejania" was about an exile travelling to Cuba and reuniting with her son and his family and the ensuing conflict (very good film as well, although obviously has a bit of the official discourse. You can find it for rent in Miami). "Cercania" mirrors this situation, this time is a father who comes from Cuba to visit his exile son and goes through teh shocking experience of adapting to life in Miami. I think you'll like it.

Here's the synopsis from when it played at the LA Latino Festival:

"A 78 year-old Cuban, with an astonishing vitality, Heriberto, arrives to Miami, from Havana, invited by his son, whom he has not seen for 10 years. The son, Julian, doctor of profession and former revolutionary with conviction, who in a moment of disillusion, decided to immigrate as a balsero, is married with Luisa, a nurse, also Cuban of 29 years, who arrived in the United States as a girl. To the journey of Heriberto are coupled a enigmatic neighbor, enthusiast of the golden age of theater that has the same name of his former lover, Gabriel, a North American gardener, idealist invested in social justice. These and other exuberant characters will end up becoming vital elements in the life of Heriberto and will contribute lucidity and candor to the story."

Anonymous said...

I viewed the Moro film "Love and Suicide" out of a desire to view recent a film of Cuba. I knew the movie would stir some opposing views so I did a little search and found this blog. I also read the archives which include hateful comments about Luis Moro. May I simply say that as I read the posts all I keep saying to myself is that these people are little Cuban demons venting unfounded hate? The issue has been sliced and diced into so many combination that no one attempting good would have a chance to stand up without darts quickly piercing their skull before having a chance to take a step. As I read these posts I asked myself, why did the moderator not moderate? Why were there not words other than brief fake extensions of doubt offered to the discussion potentially exploring a rationale that is foreign? Instead, it became a torchfest fueled by ignorance consuming reason and patience. Which one of those posters has a rock to throw? Where are your Cuba films? Did anyone consider that the trailer potentially consisted of little to no dialogue because editing, mixing, engineering, and mastering audio is something that is time consuming, costly, and is generally later within the production process of making a movie? Can you not be happy that someone was able to update your mind's eye of Cuba? Could you not wait? Could you consider supporting the idea that someone has managed to piece together a movie filmed with NO HOLLYWOOD crew or budget and have it showing alongside such in Miami could be a benefit to all? The fact that it has no apparent politcal agenda may be the grace that allowed the film to leave Cuba. Accept the gift you closed minded demons. The movie is not hollywood, if you expected that, then you completely missed the beauty of what was accomplished with nearly nothing in terms of film equipment. I heard he was there long enough to view another of his (Moro's) films... so this means that he filmed Love and Suicide in how many days? What was accomplished was amazing, helpful, insightful and though it may not be the $10 million hollywood blockbuster you will be taking your well fed family to see this weekend, it clearly demonstrates Moro's brillance at using discretion so as to not over extend any artistic priviledges, had any been extended, being resourceful in an antiquated country technologically, completing a project that one could only suspect was riddled with setbacks, and showing restraint to not track down and beat the hell out every person who uttered such rubish nonesense without having any background information within those archives. My suggestion to the moderator, remove the links to the archives because it clearly alerts those of sound mind that the waters of knowledge and restriant here are shallow. That one should be entertained by reading and writing such amazes me. Go see the movie, it is a gift, resist the temptation to remain close minded you of no mental accomplishment. BAM was right on. How nice of you to graciously post only their personal email address and not the others for all the sharks to feed upon.... and Moro did not show up to talk with you....hmmmm I wonder why. Shameful. If I were him and you showed up to my movie, I would have you escorted out so as to let you remain in your heart of darkness, uninspired. In the end, the moderator was wise and finally spoke some words of truth. Yes, it is possible that those who seek the same destination may travel a different route. My name is Dakatzpajamas. I will not give you my email address because many of those here have demonstrated the works and words of their gravely depraved minds towards Moro, a man of independent - underfunded- film genius. I, not being half the man of his genius, would not stand a chance against the politics and perhaps would not demonstrate his upright character towards your beligirant wayward prose. I am not Cuban, I am human. All suffering needs remedy. I would suspect that empowering people through a lifted embargo would at least allow the people to be better fed as a consequence of greater travel. It at least allows for the possibility of diffusing fear, debunking myths, and uprooting hatred. The influence of even a slowly permeating knowledge can not be over-appreciated, as even a trickle of information has power capable of soaking into the collective milieu. RESPECT IS DUE TO BAM, and MORO.

The Cuban Evolution said...

Henry

Thank you for seeing the film and for the write up.

I must say, "man............ you're a great writer."
You have a distinct voice on the page. I, "the reader", was left with a novel like experience.
I was proud of your penmanship, and we just met.

As for the content. Thank you for being fair and frankly, saying the truth. The way my wife, myself and more importantly - the film
was initially portrayed in the BL blog was so incorrect, that it simply didn't warrant any dialog from me. My wife, well, she's
a former police officer and she was on fire, etc :)

I do thank the blog for giving my wife the fuel to reach new levels of education and understanding
I believe all Cubans have and feel regarding our heritage. She felt OUR PAIN.

In the end, I believe and have faith that we all want the same thing. Freedom for all humanity.
We want a world that works for everyone, with no one left out. Unfortunately, that may take,
eliminating those who take action for the opposite.

I trust your coverage will inspire some of your readers
to see the screening of Love & Suicide this weekend.
I will be their Friday through Sunday for all the screenings.

Please let me know if I can ever provide anything for you.

Best regards
Luis

ps: We screen Friday, Saturday, Sunday
11:30 am - 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Dear Dakatzpajamas,

Thank you for coming to my blog and posting your comment. I wish to correct you on a few things though. First this blog is a distinct and different blog than babalublog, the archives of which you mention in your comment as if they were comments posted here.

This blog is my personal work and that of my blog partner. While I also contribute to Babalublog I am not the editor there. I agree with Val Prieto that blog's editor on almost everything to do with Cuba but I don't tell him how to run his blog.

As for my reasons for linking to posts about Luis Moro (posts at Babalu), that's my prerogative. I posted those links because I think the reader deserves to know what the criticisms were in order to interpret my take on the situation.

Something you have to keep in mind is the way blogs work. We often react to stories in the mainstream media and that's exactly how we became aware of Luis Moro: A newspaper story about an anti-embargo filmmaker that went down to Cuba to film a movie. For those of us that oppose lowering the embargo that doesn't look too good. And then when someone claims that they were in Cuba at the same time and that they witnessed terrible behavior by the film crew it's easy to believe.

As for how hard it is to make a film, you don't have to tell me. I work in the ad business so I know how laborious and expensive it is to film and edit a project. But if the trailer wasn't a good representation of the film then it should not have been released. A trailer is supposed to put a film in the best light not the worst, particularly a film that as you mentioned (and I emphasized in my post) is not political.

Mr. Moro has chosen to promote the film by using the embargo, something which I think is completely unnecessary. The film has nothing to do with the embargo and the embargo has nothing to do with the film. It's an angle as my colleagues in the public relations field might call it. And it will work to generate some coverage but it won't endear the vast majority of the exile community that would normally be interested in a film like this.

But Mr. Moro chose to promote his film the way he saw fit and I wrote what I thought was a fair report about the film and his encounters with my fellow bloggers.

It's also worth noting that when the whole thing went down last year that Mr. Moro never came out and personally disputed the "facts" that his detractors had posted. Only through surrogates did we hear any defense. Again Mr. Moro is not obligated to address any criticisms just as I wasn't obligated to write this response but I'm only trying to make my position clear and he could have benefitted from attempting to do the same.

Regards,

Henry

Val Prieto said...

Luis,

I think Henry pretty much summed up why your film was taken to task at Babalu. Using the embargo and the plight of the Cuban people to garner publicity for your film is shameful at best.

As to the comments regarding you and your film at Babalu, you were welcome to address them personally and you opted not to, sending someone in your stead.

Perhaps you can film another love story, this time, say, in Darfur, and you can then use the genocide there to start the hype about your film which has nothing to do with genocide.

Henry,

I admire your graciousness in your treatment of Luis but I certainly am not convinced yet.

Anonymous said...

Quiz time...
3 Yes or No questions followed by an essay... Is there an embargo? The answer is Yes... was the movie filmed there? Yes Again!
Is Luis Moro Cuban? Yes... ok 3 for 3! Now... why should the creator of a film who is Cuban not position a film shot within Cuba during an embargo, as a film, filmed by a Cuban, in Cuba during an embargo?
The trailer shows parts of Cuba, as they are today. Did the trailer influence you to think that the movie was anti-embargo? Did it overwhelm you into thinking it was politcally charged minus any pictures of Cagastro or items of proganda? Or did those who viewed it intitially read into it and then march full ahead with disappointment that it was not a politcally charged movie? Certainly there are political undertones and implications to doing a movie in Cuba which makes the Director a target to the type of scrutiny mentioned in the blog. All this is healthy up until the point at which one decides that the accusations must be true because the accused either pays them no merit by being silent or refuses to engage in he said/she said banter, or the writers talk provocative unfounded trash as a tactic to get the attention of the Director to speak with them. I am simply pointing out that this all looked more like a witch hunt exposing the folly of those carrying torches than a serious review meriting serious response. So I agree with Luis' actions. So what does it say about how those who are seriously interested in making a change in Cuba are spending their time and what/who they consider as their target? Was not all that slander like swinging your fists in the air fighting ghosts to tire your self out so that you can feel like you are a valiant Cuban warrior for the cause? And even now, we see it continuing with Val... Val, the issue is not about your view of Luis Moro, or anyone needing to convince you. The real issue is the scattered approach to fighting for the same end, that is the restoration of Cuba. Luis has done something to bring this to the public eye, now rather than swinging your fists running in circles, pick a target... perhaps a helpful one. This is how you become part of the solution and not more of the problem. I am just a bystander so forgive me for asking, but who you see as your leader in supporting the change that you need/feel you want? How do you organize yourselves? You have the publicity with the recent events and the Moro flic, now do something with it! Consider marching down a freeway during rush hour as they do in California;) Ok, Seriously, Here is a question for Luis. Luis, what is your angle on this film? Do you think you have created a polical piece? What do you have to say to those who feel the time spent in Cuba may have been better spent explicitly documenting suffering rather than inferring it by allowing the completely broken down homes, 3rd world'esque city streets and 1950 vehicles to serve as simply a backdrop? Is it because doing so allows for one to be free to observe the situation in Cuba without the need for a mental tour guide? Is it because doing so might have angered and outraged those standing by, prompting the alert of government to expel/ imprision you? Why did you choose to leave the film so open ended to observation and extrapolation? Why is the polical message so abstract? Were you simply creating a visual medium from which those excited and charged to action could extract information for cause and read into it what they wanted for either better or worst polictically? Why do I feel like I am not being spoon fed what to think when I watch your film? Tell Me Please because I have no mind for myself? Anyone have a lighter... my torch just burned out? Dakatzpajamas Out...

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Dear Dakatzpajamas,

This is the last response that I'll post vis-a-vis Luis Moro and "Love & Suicide."

Here's 3 questions for you:

Is the movie about the embargo?

Is Luis against the embargo?

Are many Cuban-Americans (if not the majority) in favor of the embargo?

The answers are no, yes and yes. Knowing that, what does Luis Moro have to gain by using the embargo to promote his film? In some circles it may work but you can't expect those of us who are for the embargo (what little of it there is left) to applaud his tactics.

Since I wrote this post I've read a lot of material about Luis Moro and the making of this film and he hasn't gotten his story straight yet. He claims the movie was made in violation of the embargo but BAM (who I assume is Mrs. Luis Moro) says they went to Cuba from New York because they were going to a screening of another Moro film at a film festival in Cuba. This presumes that they had the correct license from OFAC to visit Cuba. The fact that they made a movie there does not mean they violated the embargo.

I have seen other movies such as "Freedom Flight" which were shot, at least partially, in Cuba and the filmmakers never commented on the embargo one way or the other. In the case of Freedom Flight, the Cuba scenes were shot by someone who was in Cuba visiting relatives (again a valid reason for being on the Island).

Mr. Moro claims that the Federal Government has it's "hands around his throat" yet to date he has not fined. He also says he's a million dollars in the hole on this film. A fine of $6,500 (the typical first offense fine according to a treasury spokesperson that was interviewed in the same piece I read) is just a drop in the bucket compared to the million and a small price for all the media attention he has gotten.

There's also a question of how long Mr. Moro and his crew were in Cuba. In articles I have read, he claimed to have been there 12 days for this festival, but last night on local TV he claimed to have been there 18 days. That doesn't prove or mean anything except that Luis Moro takes liberties with facts.

As far generalizing about comments that were made on another blog and projecting them on me, that's ridiculous. First thing is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. There's an open comments forum on Babalublog and people can say what they wish. I agree with some of the people that post comments there and I disagree with some of them.

Luis Moro is not a target of anyone. If Luis Moro has a press tour in which he is simultaneously opposing the embargo and promoting his film then he has to be man enough to accept any criticisms that come his way. And to his credit he has come on this blog and done so. But you should know that, as a supporter of Moro, you are not doing the cause of his film any good because this whole episode is leaving a really bad taste in my mouth.

As far as who is doing more for Cuban freedom, nobody can argue the that Val Prieto isn't doing yeoman's work in that arena. It's only because Babalu is so widely read and influential that it bothered BAM and others that Luis Moro got trashed by the readers there. If nobody read Babalu it wouldn't even be an issue. At Babalu (and other blogs including this one) we expose the truth about Cuba to those who don't know it. We talk about the political prisoners like Oscar Elias Biscet and the opposition on the Island like Guillermo Fariñas something that Luis Moro hasn't spoken a word of.

Lowering the embargo will help neither of the two or the many others like them. That's because Biscet isn't in jail because of the embargo and Fariñas isn't on hunger strike because of the embargo.

In the end, I don't know if Mr. Moro is using his anti-embargo views to promote "Love & Suicide" or using "Love & Suicide" to promote his anti-embargo views. Either way, it doesn't paint too flattering a picture. And his "supporters" aren't doing him any favors.

Anonymous said...

Although I have only known Luis for a short time, a few things are apparent to me. He has been Cuban his entire life, he has made his living in the film industry for most of his adult life, and he does not shy away from political debates.
Love and Suicide is a character study of a man with a variety of problems. My interpretation is that one of the main problems is the question "What is it to be Cuban, if you have never seen the island and are removed from the culture of your people?" Those who seem to enjoy the film the most are those with a desire to see Havana again, or those who, like Tomas, have grown up Cuban without ever knowing Cuba.
Try to sell that as a news story when you have no advertising budget. A recent news story covered the film and the reporters entire angle was the embargo. Patrons leaving the film were asked not about the film itself, but did it bother them that the film was made in violation of the embargo.
I am not Cuban, and even living in Miami do not often think about the embargo. With the understanding that I am radically over simplifying a 47 year old political issue, supporters of the embargo believe it to weaken Castro's position. Those who oppose it would prefer fewer travel restrictions and would like their loved ones in Cuba to be able to enjoy a better standard of living that they feel lifting the embargo would allow.
In conclusion, in the past month, Luis Moro has provided Miami with an up to date view of Havana. He has brought us an inciteful and emotional interpretation of what is is to be Cuban. He has provided a literary juxtaposition of Cuban and American cultures. He has also put the debate about the embargo in the news. If he has his way, he may bring all of these issues to the rest of the country. Is he doing it to make a buck? To you, Mr. Moro, if your only goal is a larger paycheck, why don't you go make a cheesy horror flick like everyone else in Hollywood? I know I personally can't get enough of them.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Dear "Anonymous",

Mr. Moro is the one that mentions the embargo in every interview or press opportunity. It's a free country, he can do that. But he can't expect people that believe in keeping/strenghtening the embargo to like it. You can't have it both ways.

Since the movie is not about the embargo and Mr. Moro is intent on bringing it up all the time, I have to assume he is either using the film to promote his ideas or his ideas to promote the film.

Again he's free to do it. I just don't like it. And nothing you say or he says is going to make me like it. And I'm not going to post anything more about Luis Moro because I think all of his "friends" are trying generate more publicity.

I'll gladly debate Mr. Moro or anyone else on the merits of the embargo. But I don't have to promote the film.

And you are very naive if you think that lowering the embargo will afford anyone (except the ruling class in Cuba) a better standard living. Cuba's economy is completely centralized and run by Communist bureacrats. Even Chinese citizens have a much greater degree of economic self-determination than Cubans.