Entries in the 'Cuba' Category

May 3, 2006

Scenes from I Am Cuba on YouTube

Filed under: Cuba,History,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 12:44 pm
Scene from I Am Cuba, captured by surf-n-turf
Scene from I Am Cuba,
captured by surf-n-turf

I’ve mentioned the visually stunning 1964 propaganda film I Am Cuba a couple times here on Humu Kon Tiki, and now you can see it for yourself. It’s been available from Netflix for some time, but now the companion documentary about the making of the film is available, too, and both films are reportedly available from Comcast’s OnDemand download service for digital cable subscribers. There are a few screenshots on Tiki Central of the tiki bar scenes, courtesy of surf-n-turf. A peek at this fantastic film has also been put up onto YouTube, including the legendary opening sequence at a midcentury-modern hotel, and severals scenes that take place in a tiki bar. The Havana Trader Vic’s is almost certainly what’s being nodded to in these scenes, and the decor used was likely borrowed from there for use in staging the set — the restaurant by that time had become the government-run El Polinesio, which is still operating today, and is said to still have much of the decor. Special thanks to Mr. Bali Hai for the YouTube heads-up and link collection.

April 5, 2006

The Sometimes Dirty History of Rum

Filed under: Cuba,History,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 6:59 pm
Rum labels from an old cookbook, from the collection of Sneakytiki
Rum labels from an old cookbook,
from the collection of Sneakytiki

Last year a book all about our favorite liquor, rum was released by Nation Books. Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776, by Ian Williams, shines a quite illuminating spotlight on rum. Williams is a true rum lover, but he is eager to educate about the seedier side of the political and commercial history of rum, which was the oil of its day in terms of influencing international trade and legal machinations. An excerpt of Williams’ book is available on The Nation’s website, and it takes a look at the role Rum has played in relations between Cuba and the United States over the past several decades. Williams also touches briefly on the scourge of Bacardi on the rum landscape:

While Fidelistas may berate Bacardi for its feud with Havana Club, rum aficionados almost universally deplore the company for the effect it has had on rum. Gresham’s law observes that bad money drives out good; Bacardi has achieved this with rum. Its bland ubiquity has been driving the distinctive rums of the world from the mass consumer market. It is the equivalent of American cheddar driving out the 300 cheeses of France. Its monopoly power has been used to keep much better, genuinely local Caribbean brands from reaching takeoff. The islands cannot compete with subsidized and tariff protected high fructose corn syrup and Floridian sugar grown by former Cuban barons, so their one chance to market a value-added branded commodity is frustrated by the transglobal black bat.

This is an excellent summary of exactly why I encourage people to avoid Bacardi: it is not good rum, and worse yet, its aggressive (and downright shady) tactics — both in the marketplace and in Washington, D.C. — are making it near impossible to purchase the good stuff — which is hardly something one would want to support.

A tip of the Demerara to Cynical-C, who’s really on a roll today, and also to Sneakytiki, who posted this swell picture of old rum labels on Tiki Central today.

January 13, 2006

I Am Cuba Documentary Airing on Sundance Channel

Filed under: Cuba,History,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 7:59 pm
I Am Cuba
I Am Cuba

The Sundance Channel is airing the film I Am Cuba (mentioned in a recent post on Humu Kon Tiki), and immediately afterward is running a 1-1/2 hour documentary on the film, I Am Cuba, the Siberian Mammoth. The pair air tomorrow (Saturday, January 14) at 2:00 p.m., and again on Wednesday, January 25 at 11:30 a.m. The film, which features decor from the Havana Trader Vic’s, is a favorite of mine. I haven’t seen the documentary and very much want to, but we don’t have the Sundance Channel — anyone able to connect me with a copy?

January 7, 2006

I Am Cuba Screening in Seattle

Filed under: Cuba,Events,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 11:09 pm

One of my favorite movies, I Am Cuba, is currently being shown at the Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I Am Cuba was produced by Russia during the height of U.S./Russia/Cuba tensions in the early sixties. It is a fascinating look at pre-revolution Cuba through the eyes of the Russian government, from a post-revolution point of view (complete with the requisite Ugly Americans). Aside from the very interesting social commentary, cinematically is is breathtaking. The black & white film uses special filters that give the palm trees an eerie, silvery appearance that is quite striking. Near the beginning of the film is a jaw-dropping sequence showing scenes from around a very modern hotel, all taken in just one take — it must be seen to be believed. Early on there is a scene that takes place in a tiki bar. It almost certainly is a sound-stage, but elements from the set were taken from the Trader Vic’s in Havana, in particular the bird-cage lamps can be recognized as Trader Vic’s classics. The restaurant is still there, but is no longer a Trader Vic’s, and is now called El Polinesio. It is in the Hotel Cuba Libre, the same modern hotel featured in the beginning of I Am Cuba.

I Am Cuba made the art house circuit in the early ’90s, and now is making the rounds again with a new print and soundtrack. Showings are at 6:30 and 9:15 through next Thursday the 12th.


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Humuhumu
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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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