Daniel Abma: Transit Havana

… that has the subtitle ”New Heroes of the Cuban Revolution” is a well told character driven, emotional and informational, visually excellent documentary from a country, where the president’s daughter Mariella Castro is ”heading a new state program for transgender care”. She is in the picture once in a while, with the two foreign doctors who perform genital surgery, 5 per year, and she is seen with the first one who had an operation, Juani, who is waiting for another one ”to give life to his pancho”, the name that is used for penis. Juani is one the three characters, Malu and Odette are the two others, they wait for the operation to make their wish come through: to become women!

It is ”No to Homophobia, Yes to Socialism” and the film invites you to have warm feelings for the three, at the same time as it does not hide the strong conservative reactions from the society and the families, who are not happy, to say the least. In Odette’s family religion plays an oppressing role.

In other words: the filmmakers show their fascination of the country and their love to the characters but they also have a point of view. They are not ”only” describing. Which can be exemplified with this sequence: Mariella Castro says that the country will develop socialism and ”never go back to capitalism”, she talks propaganda language, as the next images of the Cuban flag comments, to be followed by a street image that says ”poverty”, cut to a billboard with Fidel and ”Socialismo o Muerte”, cut to military people, cut to more slogans on walls. An elegant way of pointing on the situation of the country. As are slow motion sequences of people in the streets walking or standing on the boardwalk, many of them waiting for clients. You hear the director ask Malu, ”is this where you pick up work”, ”No she says, that can happen everywhere and with that money you will have meat on the table the next day”.

The best documentation of the social condition, however, comes with Juani, who lives with his brother, has his pension and earns a bit through extra work as does his brother, to be able to go to the grocer to buy the allowed rations of rice etc. Juani is also the one, who in a speech salutes Mariela Castro and her center for sex eduation and tolerance of LGBT – and the one who is looking for a girl friend, who can touch me here, he says and points at his heart. As I do now – this is a film with a warm heart.

The film will be shown in international competition at the upcoming Munich Doc Fest.


Holland, Germany, 2016, 82 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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