Festival Week (a week to remember)

Thu, 03/14/2013 - 13:20

We had an unforgettable week of screenings! It all began with our world premiere at
Cinequest on Saturday March 2 where we had six hundred (600) people in attendance,
including cast members Lorena Feijoo, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy and Raoul Cantero.
Sitting in the grandeur of the California Theater, a historical landmark built in 1928, the history of
our film felt as timeless as the architecture of the venue.

After our screening we enjoyed a festive party hosted by Caffe Frascati, a few doors down from the theater.
A Brazilian bossa nova trio entertained the gathering and the film’s composer, Carlos José Alvarez, even joined in on
percussion. We savored some wine and light snacks and went to sleep happy and anticipating the following day’s

Sunday dawned a resplendent California day and we were surprised to see the size of the queue
in front of the San José Repertory Theater for our matinee screening. Four hundred (400) movie-lovers
filed in to see our second screening. This time the question and answer session was full of intriguing questions ranging from
whether we thought the film would play in Cuba to whether we thought the U.S. embargo was a failed policy.
The dialogue and inquiry awakened by Cubamerican had transcended its core audience: people of all ethnicities were
interested in its universal message.

We returned to Los Angeles on Sunday evening with barely enough time to pack and sleep
before our flight to Miami the next day. We had scheduled ourselves on a late morning
flight in order to have time to adjust to the time change and rest up for Tuesday evening’s
premiere screening at the Miami Film Festival (MIFF), but the airline gods conspired against us and
we were victimized by a six-hour delay. We finally stumbled into our room at the soothing Standard hotel
at two o’clock on Tuesday morning.

The splendid Miami weather did its best to soothe our tired bones.
We lounged and swam in the beautiful infinity edge pool while gazing out at the bay,
readying ourselves for what we knew would be an exciting night ahead.
The screening had been sold out for a week. We pooled all the tickets we had
bought for the cast, confirmed those who would attend and redistributed the
tickets for those who would not to others. In the audience were cast members
Don José Orlando Padron, Eduardo J.Padron, Alvaro De Molina, Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, and Pedro José Greer.
The tension was palpable as the house lights dimmed and the film began to play.
For 107 minutes the audience’s attention was captured, with nary a movement amongst them.
When the film ended a thunderous applause filled the theater. And when the
film’s director José Enrique Pardo (JEP) was introduced, the audience stood en
masse and showered him with a fervent minute-long ovation.
The question and answer session was one long series of thanks from audience members
to our director for having given them Cubamerican. The only question that was
asked was “When are you going to show this film theatrically in Miami?”

We then gathered at the Delano Hotel to toast the film’s success. Everyone was satisfied
that we had accomplished what we had set out to do four years earlier: to tell the
quintessential story of the Cuban-American exile generation and its triumph.
Several libations later, with the party reduced in size, we sauntered over to
the W hotel for our last libation. Some of us taxied home to sleep around two a.m.,
but the most adventurous amongst us continued the festivities until dawn.

Wednesday was a sleep “catch up” day. Our executive producer, Patti Coleman, had to
return to Los Angeles and our film’s research consultant, Ignacio “Iggy” Boladeres,
kindly offered to be her chauffeur. That evening, Ignacio and JEP joined the film’s translator,
Sonia Nuñez, for some delicious sushi at Akashi, JEP’s favorite Miami restaurant.

Thursday began with exercise. A three and half mile walk in the chilly early morning
from the Standard to Big Pink on 2nd street and Collins for a hearty breakfast and back,
was followed by a forty-five minute elliptical session at the Standard’s gym.
During the exercise session, JEP received an email from Jaie Laplante, the director of MIFF,
announcing that because of overwhelming demand a simultaneous screening in a second theater
was being added to the Thursday evening program. Word of mouth from Tuesday’s show had spread
like wildfire and rather than turn ticket-buyers away the Festival decided to screen Cubamerican in two theaters.

At 9:00 pm on Thursday the queue waiting to enter the theaters was like a giant boa.
JEP introduced the film briefly in the main theater and then shuttled to
the overflow theater to introduce it once again. Cubamerican had practically sold out two
theaters at once.; Who would have dreamt that could happen? The Thursday shows were met
with the same enthusiasm and acclaim as the Tuesday night premiere.
Countless emotional Cubamericans approached JEP and thanked him
for finally putting their stories out for the world to see and understand.
It was after midnight when we left the theater. The crew celebrated but JEP went home to bed.
It had been a whirlwind six days, exciting beyond belief but also emotionally draining, and there was still work to do.

Friday was exit day. JEP had an invitation to the U.S-Cuba Democracy PAC luncheon at the
stately Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Iggy came to the Standard to pick him up and drive him there.
JEP made the rounds of the festival office before leaving and thanked everyone for their help in making the last few days

At the luncheon JEP was able to speak with Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
and Mauricio Claver-Carone of Capitol Hill Cubans. His mission was to enlist them to help arrange a screening of Cubamerican in Washington D.C.
All three of them seemed enthusiastic about the prospect, but politicians have a lot on their plate; we will wait to see what happens.

On Friday afternoon JEP flew back to Los Angeles. Carlos José Alvarez and Victor P. Alvarez
stayed in Miami representing Cubamerican. All of us were hopeful that Cubamerican might win one of the
festival’s awards. Carlos and Victor attended the awards event and party, but alas Cubamerican did not receive an
award. That didn’t dampen their spirits; the film had made a big splash and we had received the warmest of welcomes from
the Miami audiences. There was plenty of reason to celebrate.

On Saturday JEP flew up to the Bay Area to attend the final screening of Cubamerican at Cinequest.
With his daughter Joia he arrived to find a crowd of over 200 people waiting for entry to the theater.
The response at Cinequest seemed surreal. In the heart of Silicon valley, 1200 people had seen the film
after this last show. The question and answer session lasted over a half hour.
Finally, as JEP and Joia were leaving an emotional gentleman walked up to
them and told them that as a young boy had been brought by his father into the
Peruvian Embassy in Havana in April of 1980. “When will you have the DVD?” he asked,
“I need to show this to my children.” That simple yet profound remark vindicated our four year
struggle to make Cubamerican a reality. “Soon”, José Enrique answered,
“Soon you will be able to share it with your children. Thank you for
coming.” “No, thank you for making this film,” he replied.

Add new comment