US producer risks jail for film shot in Cuba

Campaign News | Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Cuban-American filmmaker Luis Moro shot a film in Havana without permission to protest against blockade

New York 30 May: Cuban-American filmmaker Luis Moro made a protest against the long-standing US trade and travel blockade against Cuba by making a film there.

Moro's "Love and Suicide" was showing last week in East New York, New Jersey, after screenings last year in Los Angeles, Miami Beach and the Bahamas.

It's linked to a personal crusade against the US blockade and it has led US officials to investigate Moro for breach of US laws that make it almost impossible for most Americans to legally visit communist Cuba.

If officials act against him, Moro says he will refuse to pay any fines, even if it means jail time.

"It's a farce - the embargo has not worked, and it is not going to work," Moro said of the policy imposed since the early 1960s. "I'm committed to fighting this to the end."

Moro, who left Cuba with his mother at the age of 5, says his campaign doesn't mean he favours the Cuban government or its leader Fidel Castro.

"I'm not pro-Castro. I'm anti-embargo," he says.

A writer, actor and producer, Moro attended a film festival in Havana in December 2003 and took the opportunity to shoot "Love and Suicide," which was filmed by director Lisa France with a small digital camera.

Days after the movie was shown at the American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach in July, the US Treasury Department notified Moro his trip to Cuba was being investigated.

Moro said he refused the department's request for details about his travels, saying he has the right to travel freely.

The department can impose fines of up to $65,000 for Americans traveling to Cuba without a special license. Typical fines for first-time violators are about $7,500.

Moro said ordinary Cubans on the island suffer most from the sanctions, which were tightened in 2004. The number of US visitors, including those of Cuban origin, slipped to about 108,000 last year from about 200,000 in 2003, according to a Cuban government report, which did not say how many were considered legal by US authorities.

The strongest backers of the blockade have been Cubans who fled the country immediately after the Castro-led revolution came to power in 1959, often losing their property. Moro says it's time to move on.

The exiles "will never get their land back," he said. "Just like the Seminole Indians won't get Florida back, and Texas won't be returned to Mexico."

"How many generations, how many families, have been ruined because of personal vendettas?" he asked.

The themes of forgiveness and moving beyond bitterness pepper "Love and Suicide." Kamar de los Reyes plays a New Yorker on the verge of killing himself when he travels to Cuba and confronts his roots.

A Cuban taxi driver, played by Moro, shows him the city, helping him find love and some inner peace.

The movie shows sweeping vistas of the Cuban capital - the famous Malecon seawall, bustling tourist markets, the winding, picturesque streets of the old city - some with a personal touch.

When de los Reyes'character visits his father's crumbling home in central Havana, it really is the former house of the actor's Cuban father.

Moro says that if "Love and Suicide" is shown in upcoming Havana film festivals, he'll be back.

Without a US licence.

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