One of my favorite movies, I Am Cuba, is currently being shown at the Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I Am Cuba was produced by Russia during the height of U.S./Russia/Cuba tensions in the early sixties. It is a fascinating look at pre-revolution Cuba through the eyes of the Russian government, from a post-revolution point of view (complete with the requisite Ugly Americans). Aside from the very interesting social commentary, cinematically is is breathtaking. The black & white film uses special filters that give the palm trees an eerie, silvery appearance that is quite striking. Near the beginning of the film is a jaw-dropping sequence showing scenes from around a very modern hotel, all taken in just one take — it must be seen to be believed. Early on there is a scene that takes place in a tiki bar. It almost certainly is a sound-stage, but elements from the set were taken from the Trader Vic’s in Havana, in particular the bird-cage lamps can be recognized as Trader Vic’s classics. The restaurant is still there, but is no longer a Trader Vic’s, and is now called El Polinesio. It is in the Hotel Cuba Libre, the same modern hotel featured in the beginning of I Am Cuba.
I Am Cuba made the art house circuit in the early ’90s, and now is making the rounds again with a new print and soundtrack. Showings are at 6:30 and 9:15 through next Thursday the 12th.