On my way to a visit to Cuba this past August, I stopped in Dominican Republic to capture an update of the buzos as a last possible hurrah to finish the film. On my first day I tried to enter the dump but got stopped by a troop of armed guards. A few phone calls later, a friend got me permission to enter, but it was clear I wouldn’t have any kind of the same freedom I had had years prior to move around (see picture below where I ham it up with the guards).
On my last night in the community, I did a private screening of our work in progress for only the characters involved in the film. The only place we could find where we wouldn’t attract a large crowd was a shut-up boarded pitch-black empty house someone had recently vacated, and it had no electricity. We brought in a candle, a little wooden stool to prop up my computer, and everyone sat on the concrete floor to watch. At first they called out the people they saw on screen, “Look it’s Ramon! Pablo! Arisleyda!” They laughed. But then they grew serious. At the end, I asked them, “Did I represent you fairly? Is anything exaggerated or mis-stated? Is this the real story?” It’s the moment of truth for a filmmaker when you hold up a mirror of your work to the participants of your film. I had chewed off all my nails during the screening, nervous about what they would say.
They looked at me and said, “No. You showed us as we are. This is the reality. Our reality.”
Sometimes films take a long journey. Having started this film in 2007, I cannot believe I am in 2012, nearly 5 years later, and the film still isn’t hasn’t gone through all the finishing needed. It is an expedition however that has taught me much in the way of filmmaking, approach, process, mistakes, lessons. It also taught me the meaning of magic.