In Havana, transsexuals Odette, Juani and Malú wait for genital surgery – performed by European top surgeons and organized by the president’s daughter, Mariela Castro. Castro is leading a sexual revolution combined with classic state socialism. New possibilities face old problems: will Cuban trans people find happiness despite intolerance, poverty and prostitution?PLAY ▶
Once a year, two plastic surgeons from Holland and Belgium fly to Havana to perform surgery on five Cuban transgender persons. The surgeons are invited by Mariela Castro, daughter of the president and head of the new state program for transgender care.
Castro organizes this as a modern completion of the socialist revolution of 1959 because, in her words, it is all about emancipation and self-realization. ‘Homofobia no, socialismo si!’ is the official slogan. The state helps transgender people with therapy, hormones, surgery and a new identity.
Is Cuba changing into a safe haven for trans people? For more than one year, filmmakers Daniel Abma and Alex Bakker followed the three main characters Odette, Juani and Malú and show how they deal with the reality of being transgender in Cuba. As ‘new heroes of the revolution’ they still face religious intolerance, discrimination, sexism, poverty and often a life in prostitution. Meanwhile they wait for the foreign surgeons to give them what they want most in life. Are their names among the five on this year’s surgery list?
This documentary features the historic day when presidents Castro and Obama suddenly announce new diplomatic relations, creating great expectations among the main characters. ‘TRANSIT HAVANA – New Heroes of the Cuban Revolution’ gives us a unique insight into the paradoxes of Cuba, showing a surprising side of an island in transition.
Directed by: Daniel Abma
Written by: Alex Bakker
Director of Photography: Johannes Praus
Sound: Alexandra Praet
Edited by: Jana Dugnus
Producers: Iris Lammertsma, Stefan Kloos, Boudewijn Koole
Sounddesign: Jeroen Goeijers, Alexandra Praet
Music: Alex Simu
Colourgrading: Martin Klein
Editing assistant: Robin Lach
With: Malú Caño Valladeres, Giselle Odette Diógenes Domínguez Rodríguez, Juani Santos Peréz, Mariela Castro Espín, Stan Monstrey, Marlon Buncamper, et al.
Commissioning editor BNN: Sjoerd van den Broek
Commissioning editor RBB/ARTE: Dagmar Mielke
Commissioning editor RBB: Jens Stubenrauch
Line Producers: Nazima Mintjes, Veronika Janatková, Carlos Bustamante Delgado
Postproduction: Filmmore Amsterdam, Remco Mastwijk
Producers Filmuniversität Babelsberg “Konrad Wolf”: Holger Lochau, Andrea Wohlfeihl
Production Manager & Data Wrangling: Cathrin Göbel
Production Crew: Weronika Adamowska, Loraine Blumenthal, Corine Gasser, Alexis Guzmán Pino, Michaela Pnacekova, Majel Reyes Quesada, Giovanni Zaninotto
Produced by: Witfilm, Kloos & Co. Medien.
A co-production with Filmuniversität KONRAD WOLF Babelsberg and RBB in cooperation with ARTE and BNN-VARA.
Supported by: Netherlands Film Fund, Filmförderungsanstalt (FFA), DFFF Deutscher Film- und Fernsehfond and CoBO.
Odette still lives with her mother and grandmother. They don’t accept her as a trans woman but Odette has no other place to go. From the main house she had to move into the garage next door. She tries to win her family´s support and that of the church as religion plays a huge role in her life. Will Odette manage to free herself from the grip of her family and have the sex reassignment surgery?
Juani is the first official transsexual person in Cuba. A warm-hearted character, he lives with his brother and, although very poor, he is a strong believer in the socialist state and loves Mariela Castro. Last year the European surgeons made his dream come true and constructed him a penis. Now he wants to ‘breathe life into Pancho’ and hopes to get an erection implant.
Malú is the respected and somewhat feared leader of the Cuban trans community. She changed her life from the bottom to the top. Once a prostitute, she now helps others who work the streets, tries to keep them safe and healthy, even if it means bitching to them. Her whole life is devoted to the transgender cause. She has seen twenty other trans women get the operation, when will it be her turn?
DANIEL ABMA (Director)
After finishing his studies at the PABO (Teachers College) in Assen and during the start of his studies Cultural Sciences (VU Amsterdam and Humboldt Universität Berlin), Daniel Abma (1978) worked for some years as youth worker in villages surrounding Berlin. From 2008 to 2015 he studied Direction at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF in Potsdam. In 2015 his graduation film, the documentary “Nach Wriezen” on rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, won the Grimme-Preis, the most prestigious German television award. ‘Transit Havana’ is his second long feature documentary.
ALEX BAKKER (Scenario)
As an historian, Alex Bakker (1968) is specialised in transgender issues. He combines his personal transman-background with a professional outlook. Alex conducted the research for the documentary ‘I am a woman now’ by Michiel van Erp and for the broadcast ‘Transgender pioneers’ by the TV programme ‘Andere Tijden’ (Different Times). Alex was also involved in the exhibitions ‘Ik M/V’ (I M/V), 2012 at Museum Het Dolhuys in Haarlem and ‘Transmission’ at the Amsterdam Museum (closing date 13 March 2016). In March 2014 he published his autobiographical book ‘Mijn valse verleden’ (My untrue past) with publisher Nieuw Amsterdam. In addition, Alex works as researcher, editor and writer on various exhibitions and documentaries on WWII.
- International premiere @ Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2016: 3 July, 2016, 15:30 @ Čas Cinema
- 4 July, 2016, 17:00 @ Drahomíra Cinema
- 3 Juli, 2016 @ East End Film Festival, London
- March 2016 @ Movies that Matter, Amsterdam
- March 2016 @ Roze Filmdagen, Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival
- May 2016 @ DOK.Fest München
Best Documentary @ Roze Filmdagen 2016, Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival