CubaPLUS Magazine

Cameras, lights, action: filming movies in Cuba

By: Alina Veranes Photos: José Tito Meriño
Apr 19, 2023
Cameras, lights, action: filming movies in Cuba

This little story talks about coincidences between the cinema and certain places in the country where films that marked an era in the national seventh art have been recorded, and became representative of the work of great directors of the screen, or of the work of renowned acting casts.

Cámaras, luces, acción: filmar películas en CubaThese are enclaves with soul, some of them transformed into unforgettable locations, forever on celluloid, thus increasing the artistic, cultural, symbolic and even historical value that they already had when they were chosen. Without further ado, we will say that from a vast and varied list, the Malecón de La Habana, the Plazuela de la Iglesia del Ángel, the Armería of Mercaderes street, the Coppelia ice cream parlor, the La Guarida restaurant, and the Colón Cemetery stand out.

There are more such as the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the López Serrano building and the Tropicana Cabaret, all significant places in the architectural and monumental framework of the country. We will leave the latter for another note. The Malecón de la Habana, the most famous of the country's maritime routes, preferred for relaxation by residents of the capital and visitors, has repeatedly appeared in different films, television programs, and news programs.

And it will continue to do so. But lovers of classic cinema do not forget its panoramic appearance in the great film Memories of Underdevelopment, which consecrated the Cuban creator Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, at the beginning of the 60s of last century. Memories…, the Malecón, actor Sergio Corrieri, Desnoes, Titón (Gutiérrez Alea), Cuban cinematography dressed up and entered the most select classifications, with all those elements united in memory in a bundle.

lugares-cine-loma-angel-2023-4.jpgThere they are still. Neighboring the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, the Bay of Havana and almost flowing into the Historic Center, the Malecón invites by itself, for its social and landscape values, and also, for its links with the image. Can't stop watching it.  Another of the “film locations, located on the patrimonial Calle Mercaderes, in the Historic Center comes from the shocking film “Clandestinos”, by the outstanding filmmaker Fernando Pérez, the most striking of today's living Cuban creators. We are talking about the Old Armory, today a mere exhibition center, it is closely linked to history and the July 26 Revolutionary Movement.

 It has important collections of ancient weapons and belonging to leading figures of the libertarian epics. Located in Mercaderes no. 157 between Obra Pía and Lamparilla, Old Havana. And since we move through emblematic sites of the oldest part of the capital, we attend the Plazuela del Santo Ángel Custodio, with an address in the streets of Compostela and Cuarteles, in Old Havana, in front of the Church of Santo Ángel Custodio.

Between the years 1980 and 1982, the renowned director Humberto Solás recorded at that historic site, which was always real and was mentioned for the first time by writer Cirilo Villaverde, in 1893, in his classic novel Cecilia Valdés or La Loma del Ángel. In the cinematographic version of the literary work, Solás managed to make a film and a series of several chapters, starring the stars Daysi Granados and Imanol Arias.

This Cuban-Spanish co-production had other important locations, but La Plazuela is the most mentioned. Another of the places of cinematographic cult in Cuba is the monumental and architectural Necropolis of Christopher Columbus, widely disseminated in multiple national creations. Here we recall another classic work: The death of a bureaucrat, also by Gutiérrez Alea.

A visit to the Colón Cemetery will be a kind of surprising cultural adventure, more than funerary, since it has a vast treasure of Greek and Roman style marble sculptures, as well as religious and a great architectural display in beautiful mausoleums of illustrious figures. The Christopher Columbus Necropolis, declared a National Monument, is considered one of the most important monumental architectural cemeteries in the world.

lugares-cine-loma-angel-2023-3.jpgThere are other sites linked to the famous film "Strawberry and Chocolate", also by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. One of them is the La Guarida restaurant, located in the Centro Habana municipality, at Concordia 418 between Gervasio and Escobar. And the other, far from there, is the very popular Coppelia ice cream parlor, also called the Ice Cream Cathedral, an iconic place for its central location in El Vedado, about 100 meters from the Hotel Habana Libre, and because Cubans love ice cream like children.

It turns out that in Coppelia, founded on June 4, 1966, the initial scenes of the film Strawberry and Chocolate were filmed, with which its director went around the world for the second time by showing it at the beginning of the 90s of last century. Coppelia, Strawberry and Chocolate, Titón, Desnoes, Jorge Perugorría, all these elements seem united in a warp that is not forgotten.

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