Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cuba you can't see....

I gotta admit. It took me a while to actually sit down and watch the No Reservations epidsode Anthony Bourdain filmed in Cuba. Not because of lack of interest--because honestly, I've realized that the older I get the more proud I am to be Cuban-American--I just never really had the time for it. Two days ago I finally made the time to sit and watch the entire episode. I will say, I'm kind of on the fence about it. Sure, you go to Cuba, film what you can because lets face it, you don't have access to every part of the island and not many people are willing to speak on camera (with good reason). But at the same time, you film this episode that makes Cuba look like people are just so happy to live there and they are so content with life as is.

In the episode he ate at all the "best" restaurants, stayed at Hotel Nacional (which is one of the best hotels in Havana) and had mojitos at a local bar. Throughout the episode he interviews four people who are very well off by Cuba's standards and also serve as his guides around the city. The first is a reporter. You know, because we can always get the real deal from a Cuban reporter. The second person interviewed was a photographer who moved from the the Bronx to Cuba when he was 17. He basically followed a young Castro around taking candid shots of him everywhere he went. The third was a former linguistics professor from the US who just lives in Cuba. He is very much into Cuban baseball and follows the league. He educated Bourdain on the sport Cuba is most passionate even going so far as taking him to a park where you need to be certified in order to have an argument (not joking). And last but not least, Michael Gonzalez Sanchez, an employee for the City Historian. Bourdain interviews him in a restaurant that is in the city center. Obviously not a spot frequented by the locals but ok. I'll go with it. Their main topic of discussion is about how they are trying to restore Old Havana, using funds that are mainly if not entirely gained through tourism. 

Overall, this episode kinda left me feeling empty. I'm sure it was very eye-opening for the average family living, somewhere out  in the mid-west or something, who think this is really what Cuba is all about. I heard about this episode and was expecting to see fields of sugar cane, palm trees, dirt roads, old houses that were falling apart but were so full of love and culture you could feel it pouring through your TV screen (or computer screen in my case). Instead I got an episode full of the newest restaurants, mojitos, and cobble-stone streets. I still really like Anthony Bourdain but I feel he kind of sold out with this episode. Normally in his show he immediately jumps into where the locals hang out, what they eat, where they live, what they do. I feel like he settled for filming whatever the government let him get away with just to be able to say "Hey I took my American cameras to Cuba".  Which begs me to ask: As an artist, would you put work out there for the world to see, knowing that you didn't stay true to yourself and your craft?

Anthony Bourdain No Reservations: Havana
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

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