Borscht Filmmakers Stage Fidel Castro's Death at Versailles
|photo by Jonathan David Kane|
|Director Laimir Fano|
Even I, who showed up intending to cover the affair as an impartial journalist, got swept up in the action, fiercely banging a cazuela in an angry old woman's face. Fidel was dead! Someone yelled. We whooped and cheered as tourists gawked.
Then, the director yelled cut.
For better or for worse, Fidel Castro was not, in fact dead -- the size of the celebrating crowd, numbering around a whopping 15, should have been a dead giveaway. Rather, the occasion was a shoot for young, Cuban-born, now U.S.-based director Laimir Fano's film Waiting for Berta, the latest production by the young local film boosters of the Borscht Corp.
Fano first entered the Borscht radar around 2009, when his Cuban film school project, Oda a la Piña, won a special jury mention at the Tribeca Film Festival. Fano defected to the U.S. soon afterwards, when a story in El Nuevo Herald detailed his wish to make this new film.
"We reached out to him, but we didn't have the resources yet," recalled Lucas Leyva, Borscht's "minister of the interior." That changed in the past couple of years as Borscht won grants from the Knight Foundation and other organizations, allowing them to create a new visiting filmmaker program, among others.
Meant as a largely wordless short, the film's plot centers on one of these encounters, and requires one of the most ambitious Borscht productions to date. The black comedy follows vengeful, wheelchair-bound Adela. She's played by 87-year-old Magali Boix, who the crew plucked, at the 11th hour before the shoot, from an assisted living facility on the recommendation of a friend of a friend. During an otherwise ordinary trip to Sedano's, she encounters Berta, now a Versailles waitress but once a sworn rival in Cuba.
The completed film will feature everything from a slow-speed chase down Calle Ocho, incited by a murderous, wheelchair-bound octogenarian piloting a smoke-spewing Buick Century. That chase then ends at Versailles, exquisitely timed with the sudden death of Fidel Castro, and the ensuing spontaneous celebration.