Cuban heavy metal bands aren’t much different than their American counterparts.
Their music is unapologetically loud, their fans mosh with alacrity and you don’t have to be 19 years old to soak it all in.Cuban musicians still must answer to the Agency of Rock, a government body which controls what songs bands can sing, their lyrics and touring itineraries.
Hard Rock Havana, an 11-minute short showcasing the Cuban heavy metal band Zeus, touched on the artistic conundrum face by the country’s premiere metal band. The short debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival three years ago, but now director Nicholas Brennan is turning to Kickstarter.com to help bring a feature-length Havana to life.
The very notion of an “Agency of Rock” sounds like a parody, something left behind in the This Is Spinal Tap extras. The government body, which began in 2007, is a real entity. Before its arrival, Cuban rockers could be jailed for simply performing their music. Still, time didn’t permit Brennan to explore the concept in his short film.
“I had all this incredible information that got left on the cutting room floor,” Brennan tells Breitbart News.
Brennan’s time in Cuban taught him a few lessons about both Metal 101 and the “economic equality” allegedly in play in the Communist Country.
“This whole idea of everything being economically equal is absurd, it’s not a reality,” he said. Areas where the government loosened the reigns on its people, however, showed something dramatically different. “I found in terms of a positive view of capitalism and entrepreneurialism … you see where people are flourishing it’s on their own initiative.”
The Agency of Rock helps bands find gigs and other services typically provided by record labels in the U.S. Its purpose is to allow a modicum of freedom while ensuring dissent doesn’t hurt the country’s one-party rule.
“In order to be part of the agency you can’t be outside the revolution,” he says.
Principal support for the film so far has come from the Moving Picture Institute, a group which promotes freedom through film and a major grant from the Chris Columbus/Richard Vague Film Production Fund through NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The rest is up to those curious to see a full-length examination of Cuban rockers struggling to maintain their artistry in the face of government oppression.
The Kickstarter campaign, which ends Dec. 18, 2013, is designed to give Brennan a three-month window to edit the 120 hours of footage accumulated into a feature-length production. The plan is to finish Havana by next summer and have it ready for a late 2014 release.
Brennan says his film captures a unique moment in Cuban history, a time when small market reforms are allowing Cubans to have a semblance of control over their destinies. Will those reforms blossom or be reduced in the months and years to come? And what impact will it have on Zeus and other acts which simply want to play for the masses?
“The big question is, ‘what happens next in Cuba? It could go either way,” he says.