East of Havana was my first true pilgrimage back to the country of my parents. As a Cuban-American raised on stories of my parents trauma while fleeing Fidel Castro, I had finally decided to face my own demons, and return to the country in order to understand it on my own terms. What I discovered was a whole youth culture also questioning their roots, and redefining what Revolution means to them. The feature film documentary features follows 3 rappers in Cuba’s underground Hip Hop movement as they prepare to share their music at the national Hip Hop Festival.
Official Synopsis: East of Havana is a blunt, unflinching close-up on the lives of three young rappers compelled to address their generation’s future from the confines of a Cuban ghetto. Soandry, Magyori, and Mikki are the defacto leaders of Cuba’s rebellious underground hip hop movement of the mid 1990s thru early 2000s. Possessing the undeniable talent and charisma of pop icons, these fearless performers push self-expression to its sharpest, riskiest, and most triumphant point
Premiering at the 2006 SXSW Festival (South by Southwest), the film was picked up by Sony/BMG, and can be streamed on Amazon or Apple. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
The film spawned a whole legion of activities for me — Cuba Conferences, University visits, Community Centers, and more Film Festivals — with general conversations surrounding the narrative of Cuban youth culture. Unlike perhaps the commercialisation of modern day American hip hop, the genre of Cuban hip hop serves as a necessary expression of the marginalized voices of Cuba today. To understand the history and trajectory of Cuban hip hop a bit further, visit Roads & Kingdoms excellent article, Ministry of Rap, which resulted from another brilliant long conversation with the writer, Justin Rohrlich.
“So much of American pop thrives on a bratty facsimile of courage that when you see the real deal, it’s a revelation. East of Havana is the real deal” – New York Times (Matt Zoller Seitz)
Credits: Written and Directed by Jauretsi Saizarbitoria & Emilia Menocal.
Executive Producer Charlize Theron.
Original Film Score composed by Paul Heck and Federico Fong. Music Supervision by Paul Heck
Purchase & Download Film on:
The film is currently also streaming for free on VIMEO