'East of Havana' review
This documentary offers a rare glance into the rap scene of a younger Cuban generation
By Melissa Silvestri
Published: February 28th, 2007 | 5:33pm
East of Havana is a fascinating documentary about contemporary rap music in Cuba. The film follows three local rappers: Magyori, Mikki, and Soandry, who are members of the rap collective El Cartel and rhapsodize about the fallen Cuban economy of the '90s and the anger it has fueled their generation (blackouts, no money, poor housing). The three are charismatic, intriguing individuals as they talk about what rap means to them and how they express their emotions and life stories in the strength and purity of their rap verse.
The three youths grew up in an impoverished part of Havana; Magyori sells her belongings and others' stuff for a daily profit, Mikki lives with his grandfather and does odd jobs, and Soandry is his parents' last remaining child; their older son left Cuba during the 1994 exodus when 33,000 Cubans fled the island to the United States, and he hasn't been able to return home since. A heartbreaking moment occurs when Soandry's older brother, living in Seattle, sees pictures of his parents and brother for the first time since he left, and the shock of seeing their aged faces breaks him down into tears.
The film was co-directed by native Cuban Jauretsi Saizabitoria, and co-produced by her longtime friend, actress Charlize Theron. The idea for the film came from a 2001 trip the two took to Cuba and a drive to show the island beyond images of Castro, Scarface, and 80-year old Buena Vista Social Club-type musicians. This film shows the inherent strength of the young generation, and their determination to change Cuba into a more economically diverse, rich nation. East of Havana is a small but unforgettable film that gives an American audience a rare eye into the everyday life of Cubans living under Castro's government.