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Friday, May 05, 2006

Andy Garcia Tells His Cuba Story, at Last

I found this article in an email from NewsMax.com. It's very interesting. Check it out and I post the entire article in its entirety.

NewsMax Exclusive

Andy Garcia Tells His Cuba Story, at Last
Breaking From NewsMax.com
By Peter Davidson

Andy Garcia owns two magnificent houses -- one is in Hollywood where he works, and the other is in South Florida where he grew up. But home is in Havana, Cuba, which he fled as a young boy, and Garcia says he will never go back until his native land has been freed from Fidel Castro's tyranny and repression.

"I am opposed to the regime," the 50-year-old movie star said during a recent interview with NewsMax, adding that he would have liked to return to his homeland for a visit but "in honor of all the people who have died and suffered under the [Castro] regime, I'm not able to make that leap."

Instead, Garcia has applied his considerable skills as a filmmaker to recreate the Cuba of his memory and his imagination. The result is the recently released film "The Lost City," his opus to freedom.

The movie is his directorial debut. It's also a film he co-produced and stars in. It took Garcia 16 years to bring the film to the silver screen. "I couldn't get any support; I couldn't get financing," he said. "Selling a Cuban story to Hollywood wasn't easy."

For a long time Hollywood has been sympathetic to Cuba's longtime dictator, even though Fidel Castro gets failing marks from liberal groups.

Amnesty International cites Cuba's "illegitimate curbs on freedom of _expression" and its "detention of dissidents for the peaceful _expression of their beliefs." Human Rights Watch in its 2006 report condemned Castro for continuing "to enforce political conformity using criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance, house arrests, travel restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment. The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free _expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law."

Cuba has also persecuted minorities like Havana's Jews (almost all were forced to flee Cuba) and gays -- in past years hundreds were thrown into forced labor camps.

But stars like Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio have made pilgrimages to Cuba, and Nicholson went so far as to gush that Cuba is "simply a paradise."

Garcia is not quick to point to politics as the key reason for his struggle to get his story onto film. "Can politics have an influence on someone's decision?" Garcia asks. "It's possible, but I can't say for sure because that was never articulated to me."

Then, almost as an afterthought, he said: "A lot of movies are set against a political backdrop. My favorite film last year was 'Good Night and Good Luck.'"

That movie, directed and co-written by George Clooney, recounted broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow's effort to bring down Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It won rave reviews and six Oscar nominations. But "The Lost City" was a film Andy Garcia was determined to make, and it didn't matter to him how long it took.

"Not telling this story was never an option," he says. "I figured I could outlast everyone who said no, that if I didn't play [lead character] Fico I could always play the father, or just direct and not play anyone."

Finally, Crescent Drive Entertainment said yes, backing "The Lost City." The movie was filmed in an unusually quick 35 days in the Dominican Republic for $9.5 million -- a modest amount for a major production.

Garcia says his film recaptures "a time when Havana was the Paris of the Caribbean, a vibrant, elegant and cultured city threatened and subverted by violence and social injustice, then torn apart by a revolution that became misguided and, finally, betrayed."

The screenplay was written by famed Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, an exile who died in London in February 2005. It's based on his 1967 novel "Tres Triste Tigres." Co-starring Bill Murray, Dustin Hoffman and Spanish beauty Ines Sastre, the film is set in the late 1950s. It tells the story of a middle-class family ripped apart by the Cuban Revolution.

The history of the Cuban Revolution is clear-cut. Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by rebel Fidel Castro in 1959. Castro appeared to many as a hero at first, but he soon became a pawn of Russia -- an alignment that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
In his fictional account of those days, Garcia plays Fico Fellove, the owner of a Havana nightclub. Two of his brothers become Castro supporters and join the revolution while Fico, who is apolitical, desperately tries to avoid taking sides -- only to see his life destroyed by Castro's repression and Che Guevara's ruthlessness.

About Guevara, Garcia says, "Che has been romanticized over the years, but there is a darker side to his story. People wear his T-shirt like pop art. They don't know who he is. He looks like a rock star, but he executed a lot of people without trial or defense."

"The Lost City" was a big hit at the Miami International Film Festival, where Garcia received a standing ovation from 1,600 moviegoers, mostly Cuban-Americans. Dozens of viewers told him, "This is my story."

It's Andy Garcia's story as well, and it's his wife's story, too. In 1982, Garcia married Marivi Lorido, a Cuban-American whose story parallels his own. They have four children -- Dominik, Daniella, Alessandra and Andres -- and a commitment to each other that has never wavered despite his status as a Hollywood leading man and his selection by Esquire as one of the 100 sexiest stars in film history.

"I left Cuba when I was 5 1/2, and I remember everything," he says. When he closes his eyes he can still smell his father's farm, and recall how the soil felt when he walked on it, and he can feel the cold terrazzo tile floors of the family's home and hear his grandmother playing her piano.

Garcia also remembers what happened after Castro took over: "Conditions became progressively worse for us. The government took our land. Money that was in the bank was taken, too. The state passed a law and parents lost their rights to their own children."

And he remembers the Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 17, 1961, when 1,300 armed Cuban exiles landed in an ill-fated attempt to topple the Castro regime. He remembers the strafing of Havana, hiding under his bed, and going out the next morning to collect spent shells from the anti-aircraft batteries.

Then one day in mid-1961, his mother brought him a glass of orange juice and told him, "We're going to Miami tomorrow." He sensed right then that they weren't coming back, at least not for a while, so he paid close attention to everything that was happening around him.

The next day Andy, the youngest of the three Garcia children, his brother Rene, sister Tesse, mother and paternal grandmother headed for the Havana airport. His father remained behind.

At the airport, the family had to pass through a final glass-enclosed checkpoint before being allowed to board their flight to freedom. It was called the fishbowl, and it was where everyone who was leaving Cuba was searched by Castro's thugs, the Revolutionary Guards, and anything and everything of value was taken from them.

His 12-year-old sister was wearing bangle bracelets, but they wouldn't come off over her hand, so one of the thugs picked up a pair of clippers. "I thought he was going to cut her hand off to get the bracelets," Garcia said. Instead, the thug cut the bracelets.

When they landed in Miami, they were so empty-handed that his mother had to borrow a dime to make a call on a pay phone to relatives who had already fled Castro's Cuba. The five Garcias took up residence in a single room in a motel off Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.

One month later, Garcia's father arrived in Florida and went to work for a catering company, which he later bought. He was also in the sock business, delivering socks to retailers on consignment. Every night after dinner the Garcia family would sit at the table and sort the socks, putting them on little plastic hangars. "I was pretty good at it," Garcia says proudly.

He was pretty good at Miami Beach High School, too, where he played on the basketball team and dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. But in his senior year an illness prevented him from playing so he turned to the drama department.

After graduating from high school he enrolled at Florida International
University, where he continued his drama studies. From there he went to
Hollywood, landing a role as a Latino gang member on TV's "Hill Street Blues."

That was in 1981. Other prominent roles followed -- he played a cocaine kingpin in 1986's "8 Million Ways to Die," one of Eliot Ness's men in 1987's "The Untouchables," and a detective in 1990's "Internal Affairs." But his career soared after he landed a starring role in "The Godfather Part III."

Along the way he studied the techniques of master filmmakers such as Sidney Lumet and Francis Ford Coppola, who directed him in "The Godfather Part III." And he reconnected with his Cuban roots, especially with the island nation's music from the '40s and '50s, producing four albums and a documentary.

In 2000, he starred in the HBO film "For Love of Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story," about the Cuban trumpeter great whose passion, like the character Garcia plays in "The Lost City," is music but whose dream is freedom.

Says Garcia, "'The Lost City' is about many things, but it is the music that runs deep in my veins. Neither blockades nor artistic repression can contain it. It is inexorable; like water, it will always get in and out."

Meanwhile, Garcia believes that Castro's tyranny will be swept away. "It breaks my heart that Cuba is not free, but I'm optimistic that one day it will be," he says.

He's certain that day will come. "Absolutely," he says. And when it does, Andy Garcia will, at long last, be able to go home.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Star Trek 11

My photoblog has at least two videos of Star Trek spoofs. One was horrible and I'm willing to bet was something of an amusement for the people involved. It obviously involved a family in front of a blue screen with the original Enterprise crew consisting of McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Checkov, & Scotty. In other words this family became a part of the Star Trek action. The other was titled Scottish Star Trek and I'm not going to elaborate further you just should watch the video.

The next Star Trek movie is going to be released in 2008 according to StarTrek.com. I've even hear rumors that Captain Kirk might be played by Ben Affleck. The Star Trek franchise normally doesn't seem to spent a lot of money on talent. Thank the Great Bird of the Galaxy for that.

But Ben Affleck as James T. Kirk? I think he'd be a better choice to play Mr. Spock if this Starfleet Academy adventure ever gets off the ground. Though some would say that would be so wrong.

Oh yeah I didn't mention that part. The next movie might be a prequel showing how Kirk and Spock met at Starfleet Academy. I can only hope that they can do this concept some justice when it is finally released to theaters almost two years from now.

ILLINOIZE: Half-Truth from the Rev. and State Senator James Meeks

ILLINOIZE: Half-Truth from the Rev. and State Senator James Meeks

I really like this post from Cal Skinner on Rev. James Meeks proposed platform of more state funding for the public schools. Mr. Skinner touched on one fact of education funding in Illinois. According to the Illinois Policy Insitute, 62% of the funding for public schools come from property taxes. Only 30% of education money comes from the state. So if you go on the basic facts Meeks is correct Illinois is last when it comes to state dollars for local public schools.

Still this would lead me to think that Meeks is still barking up the wrong tree. If he really wants schools to improve on the far south side of Chicago he shouldn't just be looking at tax dollars. There are a number of other factors here. Might the schools still be doomed to failure even if they get more money from the state?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day Protest Videos...

There was a series of immigration protests around the country yesterday. The first glimpse I got of May Day was from DavidMeade.com a local videoblog. Evan Coyne Maloney announced at Brain-Terminal.com that there will be video from a number of cities around the country courtesy of his partner at On The Fence Films, however, there are only video stills up currently. In addition Andrew Marcus also has some video of these immigration protests as well.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More "regnef" stuff...

I blogged about Fenger High School last Saturday. About a teacher who blogged about the happenings at Fenger where he taught. Needing people to read his blog he told some people and things went down hill from there. So today I check out the blog that watches the Chicago Public Schools and I see a link to a Tribune column by Dawn Rice Turner.

Basically this teacher was referred to in this column as Mr. So & So. He helped some students who he taught in a government and economics class prepare for a mock trial. They have to do this for a real live judge. He really helped those kids out a lot and the theme of this column was to prove this teacher's assertions wrong. These kids who were supposedly dealing drugs in the halls and having sex in the staircases went out to prove their teacher wrong.

She definitely didn't like what the teacher said about the sudents. She didn't address what the teacher said about his colleagues. But there is no denial that Fenger isn't without it's problems. But consider what Turner writes about...

The competition, which has been around for more than two decades, isn't designed for students who get the best grades or show the most promise. It's geared toward those kids who haven't excelled and who may be easily overlooked and just as easily cast aside. The teacher seemed to get why this was important.

...Among the students I met, one 17-year-old has a child. Another 17-year-old has a brother in prison for murder. Another is all too familiar with the topicof this year's trial case, which involves shaken baby syndrome, because his young cousin died after being shaken.
Here's something else to look at with these kids according to another coordinator who has since taken over their class...

"This is huge at a school that has attendance problems," said Katie Thaden, who had worked in collaboration with Mr. So-and-so. "These students have shown up on time, and they've been eager to participate from the beginning."
This teacher should be proud. He may not have handled his disgust very well but this teacher did truly care about his students it seems. Hopefully in the future any teacher who chooses to start a blog with regards to their job should be a lot smarter about it.

Cross posted at Illinoize!!!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Serving two flocks

Rick Kogan profiles another Englewood alderman. The other was Ted Thomas of the 15th ward. Alderman Shirley Coleman represents Chicago's 16th ward. She is also the only ordained minister on Chicago's city council. And in this article she says that she tries to keep her religious and political business separate...

"A congregation is not that dissimilar to a constituency. Both jobs serve the needs of the people. I do, however, try to keep them separate. I save my sermons for Sundays."
Here's a little more about her road to alderman...

She's been a Baptist minister for 11 years-delivering sermons and teaching Bible classes at the Spiritual Wholistic Church on 50th Street-and an alderman since 1991, when she won election over eight candidates, none of whom played gently with the only female in the field. Things got rougher the next time around. Months before the 1995 election, it became public that Coleman's ex-husband, Hernando Williams, was awaiting execution after being convicted of rape and murder long after the two were divorced. Her opponent, Hal Baskin, said that Williams might have committed his crimes because Coleman "may not have been giving [Williams] what he needed at home."

The alderman was outraged, calling Baskin's statements "malicious and despicable." She says now, "It made me stronger but also able to speak more openly about issues such as domestic violence."

She grew up in Englewood and saw the neighborhood thrive and then decline after Dr. King's assasination. Also she ran for alderman after the incumbent, Chicago's first female alderman Anna Langford, retired in 1991. A little more about the 16th ward...

Crime and poverty remain serious problems in her ward, which includes parts of Englewood, West Englewood, New City, Back of the Yards and Gage Park, as well as the gem of the Chicago park system, Sherman Park...
Ald. Coleman does have some regrets but there is a coming bright side...
Out on the 63rd Street sidewalk, amid a long stretch of empty lots, Coleman says, "That is one of my biggest regrets I have, so much tear-down. Beautiful graystones that might have been restored. But too many were open and dangerous. We had to tear down in order to build up."

A few blocks to the east, there is rising a new campus of Kennedy-King College (in Osgood's photo). "It was a very long time in coming but it will provide the economic engine that is needed for that area around 63rd and Halsted," says the alderman, who plans to run again next year. "It will help bring this neighborhood back to what it was when I was young."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Saturday items

Been a while since I did something like this. I'm just going to link to a few things of interest...

Check out this RESEARCHING MY ROOTS SERIES: Digging Up Background Information post at Booker Rising about an individual attempting to trace thier lost ancestry from Africa.

Check out this vlog about a trip to THE Cell at DavidMeade.com.

I'd really like expand on this at somepoint from Cobb a post called GOP: Rent a Negro. I have a saying on this but I'll save this for another day.

In light of the story I posted regarding a blog about Fenger High School I just wanted to link to this discussion that I found from the District 299 Chicago Public Schools Blog

Friday, April 28, 2006

Leo High School Continues the Mission of Edmund Rice

I like this post from the blog Every Heart and Hand: Leo High School Story. It talks a little bit about Leo High School on 79th and Sangamon located in the mostly black Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. It is a Catholic high school that has recieved its share of ups and downs and somehow is able to survive mostly through it's alumni.

This story starts off with hostilities between Irish American and Black American. Then it goes into how the Irish alumni of this academy are giving back to give black teenage boys a chance to go to college. The school is mostly black today and hard to believe there were actually white boys going to school there.

This just goes to show another example how a neighborhood changes. As a result the composition of a school changes. Either way the current arrangement works and what's unfortunate though I'm sure there's a good reason the outside black community (other than black alumni of Leo) don't support the school. I would say that's unfortunate if the school is absolutely an asset.