Havana Motor Club isn’t a groundbreaking documentary about Cuba. It’s full of classic cars, proud men chomping on cigars, and more shouts of “Viva Cuba!” than you’d hear in a day on Calle Ocho. Yet it is one of the few recent films addressing the unpleasant realities facing most Cubans. How do you foster an interest like car culture when most of your supplies are hand-carried in on charter flights from Florida and stringent speeding laws could land you in jail?
Director Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt follows a group of avid racecar fanatics eager for another lap around Cuba’s forbidden tracks. After racing was banned by the Castros’ communist government, which considered it a sport for the rich, these gearheads tinkered in backyards and threadbare garages to keep their hidden hobby alive for over fifty years. With recent economic reform, a racing federation looks to make the street sport respectable again, if only it can control its enthusiastic fans — and souped-up vehicles older than the revolution itself.
Havana Motor Club offers a snapshot of a Cuba that is slipping away. Already, some of these men fear the money and competition coming in from abroad. From resourceful mechanics scraping for every last nut and bolt on the island to the racer who lost everything trying to escape to the States five times, the movie reveals a Cuba that doesn’t fit neatly in to tourists’ postcards.
The camera looks lovingly at the Fifties American muscle cars while also capturing the enthusiasm and hope in these men’s stories. They’re not just looking to bring legitimacy to their racing club, but also to help build a new Cuba that won’t persecute their passion.
Havana Motor Club
Directed by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Opens April 8, Village East Cinema
Available on demand