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.
- Special Mention @ Human Rights Filmfestival Valencia, 2017, Spain
- Audience Award @ Image+Nation LGBT Film Festival Montreal, 2016
- Best Human Rights Film @ Verzio Human Rights Film Festival Budapest, 2016
- Audience Award @ Cinedoc Tbilisi, 2016
- Best Feature Lenght Film @ Filmkunsttage Sachsen-Anhalt, 2016
- Lili Award for Best Documentary @ MIX Copenhagen LGBTQ Film Festival, 2016
- Best Documentary @ Amsterdam LGBT Film Festival “Roze Filmdagen”, 2016
- May 2017, Favourites Film Festival Bremen, Germany
- May 2017, Milennium Docs Against Gravity, Warsaw, Poland
- April 2017, Transgender Film Festival Kiel, Germany
- April 2017, Vues d´en Face LGBT Film Festival Grenoble, France
- April 2017, ACT Human Rights Film Festival, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
- April 2017, Ask international minorities festival, Karachi, Pakistan
- March 2017, Docudays UA, Kiev, Ukraine
- March 2017, One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival Prague, Czech Republic
- March 2017, Toronto Queer Film Festival, Canada
- February 2017, International Film and Humans Rights Festival Valencia, Spain
- February 2017, Zineoak LGBT Film Festival Bilbao, Spain
- February 2017, Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco, USA
- December 2016, Image + Nation, Montreal LGBT Film Festival, Canada
- December 2016, In-Doc Film Festival, Jakarta, Indonesia
- December 2016, International Film Festival Havana, Cuba
- December 2016, Belgrade Queer Film Festival Merlinka, Serbia
- December 2016, This Human World, Human RighTs Film Festival Vienna, Austria
- November 2016, Asterisco LGBT Film Festival Buenos Aires, Argentina
- November 2016, El Lugar sin Limites, LGBT Film Festival Quito, Ecuador
- November 2016, Pantalla Latina, Latino Film Festival St. Gallen , Switzerland
- November 2016, Queersicht LGBT Film Festival Berin, Switzerland
- November 2016, Latino Film Festival Saarbrücken, Germany
- November 2016, 61. Cork Film Festival, Ireland
- November 2016, Queer Film Festival Oldenburg, Germany
- November 2016, Queerstreifen Münster, Germany
- November 2016, FILMZ, Festival des deutschen Kinos, Germany
- November 2016, Slovak Queer Film Festival, Slovakia
- November 2016, Verzio Human Rights Film Festival Budapest, Hungary
- November 2016, Filmfestival Cottbus, Germany
- October 2016, Queer Filmfestival Weiterstadt, Germany
- October 2016, Filmkunsttage Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
- October 2016, Sydney Antenna Documentary Film Festival, Australia
- October 2016, Cinedoc Tbilisi, Georgia
- October 2016, International Queer Film Festival, Hamburg, Germany
- September 2016, MIX Copenhagen LGBT Film Festival, Denmark
- September 2016, International Film Festival Bergen, Norway
- September 2016, Netherlands Film Festival Utrecht, the Netherlands
- July 2016, East End Film Festival Documentary Competition, London, UK
- July 2016, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Documentary Competition, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
- May 2016, DOK.fest Munich International Competition, Germany
- March 2016, Roze Filmdagen Amsterdam LGBT Film Festival, the Netherlands
- March 2016, Movies that Matter Human Rights Filmfestival, Hague, the Netherlands