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Hollywood says ‘hola’ to Havanawood


Hollywood has been clamoring to capture Cuba’s colorful charm since a thaw in frosty Cold War relations, but the islanders say the boom comes with their own underfunded film industry in crisis.

Several big American productions have created jobs and put Havana’s art deco elegance in the shop window since US filmmakers were given the right to shoot on the Communist-led island in January.

Showtime comedy series “House of Lies,” starring Don Cheadle, was the first to profit from the lifting of US Treasury Department conditions imposed as part of the 1962 embargo of the island.

The latest movie in Universal’s “Fast and Furious” series followed, along with Paramount’s “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

“We’re at a place that nobody ever thought would be possible. We are in Havana, Cuba. And you can see how beautiful it is with all these beautiful people,” “Fast 8” star Vin Diesel says in a YouTube message from the city.

The action sequel hired 250 local crew members and numerous extras at $30 a day, according to independent online magazine OnCuba, in a country where the average salary is $17 a month.

Such is the rush to the Caribbean island’s sun-kissed shores that the US entertainment media, perhaps inevitably, have coined the phrase “Havanawood.”

The detente also signals the end of an anachronistic but necessary trick in filmmaking of representing Cuba through other Latin and Caribbean locations.

“The Godfather, Part II” and Sydney Pollack’s “Havana” used the Dominican Republic, while James Bond films “Golden Eye” and “Die Another Day” turned Puerto Rico and Cadiz, Spain, into the streets of Havana. – READ MORE

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