Cinema in Cuba

The Cuban-American thaw reaches outer space

Movie ‘Sergio and Sergei’ becomes first co-production between US and Cuba for 56 years

A scene from the movie.
A scene from the movie.

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Since the United States and Cuba began the process to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, many sectors have been considering the island’s potential for business. Hollywood is no exception. The Kardashians visited Havana, Michael Bay shot some of Transformers 5 there and Don Cheadle’s show House of Lies also came to record. Amid that pageantry of celebrities, actor and producer Ron Perlman’s 10-day stay went largely unnoticed. But Perlman was there to shoot Sergio & Sergei, which could be considered the first Cuban-American co-production, 56 years on from the embargo.

The film chronicles the friendship between a ham radio enthusiast and a Soviet cosmonaut who is stranded on the Mir Space Station

The story, written by director Ernesto Daranas and Martha Daranas, takes place in 1992 as the Soviet Union dissolved and Cuba entered its most severe economic crisis. The film chronicles the friendship between Sergio (Tomás Cao) a ham radio enthusiast and Cuban Marxist professor, and Sergei Asimov (Héctor Noas), a Soviet cosmonaut who is stranded on the Mir Space Station.

Perlman, who is well-known for the title role in Hellboy, was in Cuba with his friend and filmmaker Gabriel Beristain when he received the offer to act and co-produce the film. He told Deadline that he has a passion for independent films, so could not pass up the opportunity to work on this feature on the island. Perlman, the favorite actor of the Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, said his job as co-producer is to represent the film in the American marketplace and at festivals.

“It was exciting to be part of what we felt was an inevitable change in direction,” he said. “My very first independent film was Cronos, which was a coming-out party for the young Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro and here was a chance to work with and help introduce a world class filmmaker in Daranas. He is the most important person in this whole mix; this will be his coming-out party and I’ve got to make sure he gets his due.”

The feature-length film, like every production, had its obstacles. One of them was that the lead characters did not speak Russian. Another was the presence of actor Vin Diesel, Daranas added. His production team had a lot of trouble recording ambient sound on one of their sets, a small terrace roof in Havana. What caused this sound issue? Sergio & Sergei was shooting at the same time as Fast and Furious. “Their helicopter flew over us for days,” Baranas explained.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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