Tag Archive for: Finca Figia

612HAVANA,April 27 Papa: Hemingway in Cuba holds the distinction of being the first Hollywood production to shoot on the island nation since 1959. But other film-makers looking to leave their mark need not fret, as there’s still an opportunity to make the first American film shot there since Fidel Castro came to power that isn’t a complete, mortifying embarrassment.

Papa is another biopic-through-the-lens of a young acolyte, similar to the recent debacle Nina, though this time its screenplay was written by the witness himself. Giovanni Ribisi is Ed Myers (name changed from the late Denne Bart Petitclerc), a newspaperman in Miami in the late 1950s. Abandoned by his father at a young age, as we’re told through lugubrious narration, he turned to the books of Ernest Hemingway while looking for a father figure.

He writes an impassioned note to Hemingway and one day he receives a phone call. “I got your letter. It’s a good letter,” Adrian Sparks’s Hemingway tells him, as if he didn’t see the parody of Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris – or, worse, he did see it and used that as a guide. “You like to fish?”

With that, Ribisi is off to Cuba to dive for pearls of wisdom and mentorship. He gets that, but is also witness to Papa bickering with his put-upon fourth wife, Mary (Joely Richardson), as he violently rants about creative and sexual impotence. The bearded, larger-than-life writer is a raconteur at dinner, but rages at blank pages at other times, and stares forlornly at prominently placed firearms, which are practically winking at the camera.

Director Bob Yari, a veteran producer directing for the first time in 25 years and releasing the picture through his Yari Releasing Group distribution arm, may have snipped through miles of cinta roja to get to Cuba, but he fails to do anything interesting once there. There’s one brisk montage of Havana street life and a few scenes aboard Papa’s famous fishing boat the Pilar, but most of the time we’re stuck inside Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigia.

Sure, Yari was able to shoot at the actual location (now a museum), but the confined space feels less like a bit of insight into one of the 20th century’s greatest artists than a night of cheap dinner theater.

Much of the blame lies with Petitclerc’s hopelessly tone-deaf script. When we first meet Papa, he’s in full Zorba the Greek mode, an exuberant older man bursting with a love of life, but this quickly turns to the tired routine of the dark genius. After witnessing some of the guerrilla fighting, Papa takes his new pupil to a bar and offers this bit of sage wisdom: “God, damn war!”

Later, when he and Mary are fighting, and he tells her to “go to hell”, she fires back: “I’m already there!” Just because the movie is set in the late 1950s, that doesn’t mean the dialogue needs to be ripped from the daytime soaps of the era.

At the one-hour mark, the film gets an extra spin of unnecessary plot. Papa is under the watchful eye of the FBI, and Ribisi’s Myers gets summoned for a sit-down with the shadowy Santo Trafficante (James Remar). “Why would the head of the mafia want to meet with me?” he asks aloud, in case the name doesn’t ring bells.

But it’s worth taking the meeting, because from it comes the revelation that Ernest Hemingway is being persecuted by the United States government due to knowledge of J Edgar Hoover’s taste for wearing women’s clothing. This is played with such severity and ham-fisted importance that one must applaud the sound recording unit for covering up what must have been a set full of chortles.

The film’s worst crime is presenting the Myers’ visits as the origin of Hemingway’s (probably) apocryphal six-word short story, “For sale, baby’s shoes, never worn.” In the spirit of poorly mimicking Hemingway, I’ll offer my six word review: Cuban permits don’t make good films.


havana-live-finca1HAVANA, April 22th In 1960, the U.S. ambassador to Cuba drove 9 miles outside Havana to Finca Vigía, where he had been a guest several times, to inform Ernest Hemingway that Washington was planning to sever ties with Fidel Castro’s fledgling Communist government.

He said that “American officials thought it would be best if Hemingway demonstrated his patriotism by giving up his beloved tropical home,” Valerie Hemingway, his secretary at the time and future daughter-in-law, recalled in a 2007 article for Smithsonian magazine. “He resisted the suggestion, fiercely.”

Hemingway, who committed suicide a year later, loved Cuba, and Cuba loved him.

Castro, a great admirer of the macho writer, took control of Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, and it became a museum — the Museo Hemingway — in 1963. havana-live-tower

Hemingway lived at Finca Vigía from 1939 to 1960 and wrote seven books there, including “The Old Man and the Sea,” “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream.” Kept just as it was, it remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

“It’s a virtual time capsule,” said William Dupont, professor of architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who for the past 11 years has been a hands-on consultant on the restoration of Hemingway’s Cuba home. “All the trophies, all the liquor bottles are still there, all the books are on the shelves. His Royal typewriter is there in the bedroom, sitting on top of a massive dictionary, as is the animal-skin rug that he stood on while he worked, typing standing up because of his back. He got a gift from the Russian ambassador that is still there. It’s a little model of Sputnik, a desktop paperweight.”

The Cuban government, in conjunction with the Massachusetts-based Finca Vigía Foundation, completed a $1 million restoration of the 1886 stucco home and grounds in 2008 and has been searching for a way to conserve the thousands of documents, photographs and books at the site for years.

In a concrete example of the thawing of U.S./Cuban relations initiated by President Obama, a team of preservationists including Dupont, who is director of the UTSA Center for Cultural Sustainability, will return to Cuba May 8-13 to help Cuban architects, engineers and workers build a new conservation workshop and storage center on the Finca Vigía site.havana-live-see-truh-dining

Mary-Jo Adams, executive director of the Finca Vigía Foundation, said Dupont “has helped our project make great strides. His finesse and understanding of the Cuban people has been incredibly important.”

What is groundbreaking about this exchange is that a shipment of construction materials valued at more than $900,000 is going to the island along with the American expertise.

Funded primarily by the Caterpillar Foundation and Caterpillar Inc., the AT&T Foundation, the Ford Foundation and American Express, it’s the first major export of construction materials to Cuba since the U.S. loosened the trade embargo on the island.

“It’s a big deal for the Cubans,” Dupont said. “It’s a big deal for us, too.”

Caterpillar, which donated $500,000 to the Finca Vigía Foundation, “is proud to be a part of this significant project, and we’re committed to being a business and cultural partner with Cuba,” Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “We recognize the importance of preserving the rich Hemingway heritage that unites the American and Cuban people.”

Since materials can be impossible to obtain in Cuba, the shipment will contain virtually everything needed to build the 2,200-square-foot facility, which will house conservation laboratories and a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled storage facility.

“They have plenty of concrete and cement blocks,” Dupont said. “They’ve got rebar, enough for this little building, so what we’re sending them is pretty much everything else, which would include windows and doors, roofing material, gutters, tile, ceilings, pipes, plumbing fixtures, wiring — even hardhats and safety glasses. Some of the HVAC is pretty high-tech, so we’re building it here and then disassembling it to make sure we have all the parts.”havana-live-pilar

Although the building is not an architectural “postcard,” Dupont said, it represents the literal preservation of Hemingway’s legacy, including correspondence and books in which he wrote marginalia comments, as well as travel documents, records and notes of where he was at certain times, passports and maps.

“It’s possible to reconstruct a lot of details of his life and place him in particular areas connected to what he’s writing, so it’s very valuable to scholars of Hemingway,” Dupont said. “To understand where he’s coming from, what his influences are, what he’s seeing while he’s writing, it makes it possible to map out his life.

“That’s what the house contains. So for me as a restoration architect, what we’re keeping our focus on is the legacy of Hemingway because his spirit still occupies the landscape and the buildings and the grounds. This was his place of artistic inspiration, of artistic creation, and you gain a better understanding by visiting it. And that’s what I’m trying to help my colleagues in Cuba to preserve. That’s what it’s all about.”
More about Hemingway: https://havana-live.com/hemingway-cubas-adopted-son/