Within our doctrine of an ideal America lies an eternal paradox, being that one diminishes their quality of life by pursuing it so unremittingly. In equating happiness with success, as the quintessential American by definition does, we lose perspective, neglecting our families and needs, seeing such priorities as torpid and unambitious. We are resolute in these backwards convictions, and we relegate societies with differing goals as doing so serves to reaffirm our own. America’s relationship with Cuba is largely predicated on this dynamic, causing us to view the nation as out of touch.
Art Jones, who very graciously let us pick his brain in an interview about Forbidden Cuba, sought to address and shatter these misconceptions in his feature film through a nuanced juxtaposition of the two countries. As a prisoner of corporate America traverses through Cuba’s unfamiliar terrain, the audience witnesses his progressive disillusionment with the American way of life. Insight into the societies of these two countries is accompanied by the unparalleled cinematography of Cuba’s environmental beauty, which Jones and his team went to great lengths to obtain. They ventured to Cuba bringing only digital cameras in order to minimize suspicions of their illicit filming endeavor. During the ambitious three-week process, they were continuously stopped for interrogations, and with such a covert mission, they “ran out of [Cuban] actors, and had to use [their] crew as actors.” Jones recounted that, “No U.S. actors would agree to come with us. It was a delicate balance.”
Although these measures taken by the filming crew would infer that the Cuban government is highly severe and repressive, in reality Cuban policies allow citizens to have more liberties than Americans-at least in a few key ways. For instance, in Cuba, citizens are provided with housing and medical care, giving them much higher margins of subsistence than Americans retain. Through the film, one learns that as a result of these policies, pressure and urgency is experienced much less for most Cubans, allowing them to enjoy what the country and life have to offer.
Jones considers this film a cautionary tale for corporate America and for capitalism rather than being a shot at the way American business is handled, he explained. In contrast to Cuba, America is virtually another planet where most people have very different values, Jones said. “An examination of Cuba puts issues like healthcare and education, and how the U.S. government approaches these issues that have such impact into perspective,” he said.