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Cuba’s 5ta Avenida: Of Aliens, Vampires and Zombies

Cuban Producer Claudia Calvino Takes ‘El Viaje Extraordinario de Celeste Garcia’ to Guadalajara’s Co-Prod Meet

GUADALAJARA — Cuban producer Claudia Calvino of La 5ta Avenida Prods. is taking scribe Arturo Infante’s feature debut, sci fi comedy “The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia” to Guadalajara’s Co-Prod Meet.

“The Journey…” centers on a lonely 60-year-old Planetarium tour guide who seizes the chance for a new life when an alien race invites earthlings to visit their planet. The only caveat is that it’s a one-way ticket. For Infante, who studied screenwriting at the European Audiovisual Writing Conservatory in Paris, Celeste’s character reps his parents’ generation who “gave their best years to build a utopian project” and are now “marked by disenchantment and skepticism.”

Infante penned “La Edad de la Peseta” by Pavel Giroud; and co-wrote “Habana Eva” by Fina Torres. His shorts “Utopia” and “Gozar Comer Partir” snagged a host of local and international prizes.

“Mexico seems a good fit for a co-production partner as “The Journey…” won two prizes at the Morelia Lab, best project and the Labodigital award, towards its post production,” said Calvino.

La 5ta Avenida is also developing Lechuga’s next pic, “Havana: Vampire Territory” a topical vampire story set in Havana just after diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. have been re-established. “We are now working on finding the right partners and co-producers for the project; it needs a higher budget so we still have some time to get all the financing in place,” said Calvino. The project won the Gold Prize for Projects and Works-in-Progress at the 2014 Austin Fantastic Market.

Lechuga’s second pic, “Santa y Andres,” is now in post and centers on an unlikely friendship between a gay and a revolutionary peasant woman sent to keep an eye on him. Alfredo Calvino’s Habanero Films handles worldwide sales.

5th Avenue Prods produced Alejandro Brugues’ riotous Cuban zombie comedy “Juan of the Dead” in 2010 as well as Lechuga’s acclaimed ”Melaza.”

The company has also been providing production services to various projects led by “Buena Vista Social Club – Adios,” the sequel to Wim Wenders’ multi-award winning original by Oscar-nommed British docu filmmaker Lucy Walker.

“For us, it has been a wonderful experience to meet this talented director who has a strong connection with Cubans, and really wants to get as much from Cuba as she can,” said Calvino.

The good news is that more American producers are eyeing Cuba now that the U.S. Treasury Dept. decided in January to allow for the shooting of scripted pics and series in Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years.

But for Cuban filmmakers, the new opportunities bring a whole new set of concerns. “Costs are going up; I think that if we had made “Santa y Andres” this summer, we would be facing steeper prices,” said Calvino.

She fears that stereotypical viewpoints about Cuba will prevail among American producers with scant knowledge of the island and its people. Thus far, U.S. film and TV companies have been seeking production services, not co-producers, she noted.

There are obviously still some obstacles to surmount, among them scant Internet availability, considerable red tape, the absence of a film law and limited equipment supply. But international producers have been overlooking these shortcomings for the unparalleled wealth and diversity of Cuba’s locations, talent and culture. Not to mention those vintage cars that ply the streets of Havana.

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