Diesel-powered stoogery

Vin Diesel giving a fist-bump to a Havana crowd

Back in January, The Hollywood Reporter informed the world that at least a few scenes of the eighth installment of the mega-successful Fast and Furious movie franchise would be filmed in Cuba in the spring — provided, that is, that Universal Pictures secured the requisite approval from the U.S. and Cuban governments.

Well, the permission came through. Thanks to the partial opening-up of Castro’s island prison in the wake of the Washington-Havana hemi-demi-semi-thaw, Fast and Furious 8,  directed by F. Gary Gray, will reportedly be the biggest motion-picture project ever to be filmed in that country, either in whole or in part, and, depending on how you define these things, perhaps the first American motion picture ever to be shot there. This, note well, despite numerous “infrastructure issues, like spotty internet,” of the kind that most Hollywood types would not ordinarily tolerate for long. 

diesel4Gray & co., then, are making history. Not that this is an absolute first. In March of last year, Conan O’Brien taped episodes of his late-night TBS talk show in Havana; recently Showtime announced that an episode of its series House of Lies will also be shot there. Then there’s the feature film Papa Hemingway in Cuba, which beat Fast and Furious to Castro-land, but which is technically a Canadian-American production, and you can make of that what you will; in any event, we’ll talk about that project tomorrow. 

diesel5Anyway, it’s happened. The Fast and Furious gang – Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Jason Statham – traveled down to Havana in late April. In what was apparently set up as a big PR moment, Diesel steered a vintage convertible coupe down a crowded street, his manner that of a returning hero or conquering king. “This is paradise!” he exulted, according to the Daily Mail.

One of the arguments for filming U.S. movies and TV shows in Cuba is that it’ll somehow help open the country up, boost its broken-down economy, perhaps even (in some way) liberate its people. But what has been the real result of this development? A Cuban-American news site, Capitol Hill Cubans, reports that in order to clear the streets for the Fast and Furious film crew, Cuban security agents were “violently removing ‘undesirables’ — e.g. homeless — from tourism zones in Old and Central Havana….These agents, wearing plain-clothes and rubber gloves, have been scouring the area for ‘undesirables’ and forcefully taking them away. Various incidents of great violence have been reported.” All, apparently, in order to keep the gringo movie makers from recording on celluloid any sign of, um, poverty or desperation in this exceedingly poor and desperate country. 

castro3Another source, the Miami-based newspaper El nuevo herald, notes that tourists witnessed some of this chilling savagery and reacted, needless to say, with alarm. Some of them expressed the desire to call the police – only to be informed that the thugs who were beating, brutalizing, and rounding up people up were the police.

As the Capitol Hill Cubans website asked:

Is this how President Obama thinks American culture will positively impact Cuba?

No wonder Hollywood VIPs and artistic delegations come back “marveled” by Cuba and whitewashing their experiences.

They have no clue what takes place behind-the-scenes.

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