Forbidden Cuba

The first American feature made in Cuba since the revolution of 1959. Part 'Local Hero' and 'Hearts of Darkness,' it's a cautionary tale about capitalism and the state of the American soul.

STORY: An American businessman travels to Cuba to retrieve an executive gone rogue, and finds his eyes opened to the beauty and vibrant culture of Cuba, challenging his corporate directives, his identity and everything he has known.

As filmmakers, we've aimed to bridge the people of Cuba and the U.S., sparking discussion about how our two nations can create a new, just and sustainable relationship for the future.

No permits, no Plan B. Defying rules, reason, and naysayers, “Forbidden Cuba” was covertly shot, guerilla-style, across Cuba over the course of three intense weeks - just before Obama announced a historic shift in America's belligerent relationship with its longtime Cold War enemy. Combining narrative and documentary filmmaking, our small team of five set out to reveal a timely, vibrant truth about today’s Cuba.

  • Art Jones
    Winner, Best Producer, Brooklyn Film Festival 2016; Producer, "The Dynamiter" (Feature / Berlin FF / Independent Spirit Award John Cassavetes nominee 2012); Writer, Director "The Blood in this Town" (Feature Doc); Writer, Director "Lustre" (Feature with Victor Argo, Tribeca FF); Writer, Director "Going Nomad" (Feature with Damian Young, Hamptons FF)
  • Art Jones
    Same as above for director
  • Art Jones
    Same as above for director
  • Raphael Duvernay
  • Corentin Vincon
  • Joe Foley
  • Idalmis Garcia
    Key Cast
  • Bernardo Cubria
    Key Cast
  • Matthew Gordon
    Key Cast
    "The Dynamiter" - Director (LAFF 2011)
  • Art Jones
    Key Cast
  • Craig Smith
    Key Cast
  • Joe Menino
    Key Cast
  • Rafael Garcia
    Key Cast
  • Corentin Vincon
  • Raphael Duvernay
  • Joe Foley
  • Benjamin S. Wolf
  • Noah Wehle
  • Samir Dib
    Original Music
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Comdey
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes 39 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 15, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    100,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Cuba, United States
  • Shooting Format:
    Canon 5D
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Brooklyn Film Festival
    Brooklyn, NY
    United States
    June 12, 2016
    World Premiere
    Winner, Best Producer
  • Rhode Island International Film Festival
    Providence, RI
    United States
    August 13, 2016
  • The Film Institute of Montclair State University
    United States
    February 28, 2017
  • Inwood Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    March 17, 2017
    Winner, Best Feature
  • Arizona International Film Festival
    United States
    April 28, 2017
    Grand Jury Prize: Bridging Cultures
  • DTLA (Downtown LA) Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    September 23, 2017
    West Coast Premiere
    Grand Jury Prize: Creative Vision
  • Charlotte Film Festival
    United States
    September 30, 2017
  • Santa Cruz Film Festival
    Santa Cruz, CA
    United States
    October 19, 2017
  • Film Society of Summit
    Summit, NJ
    United States
    October 6, 2017
Director Biography - Art Jones

Art works to make films that move people and make change. As writer, director and producer, he combines filmmaking with grassroots community-building to spur social action. His narrative films, "Dodgeball" (1995), "Going Nomad" (1998) and "Lustre" (2004) have played on HBO, PBS and ARTE, and in theaters across the U.S. and Europe. Jones’ documentary, "The Blood in this Town" (2011) focused on a struggling working-class town in Vermont that rallies to revive and rebuild itself. The film has travelled to screen and support hard-hit communities throughout the U.S., Europe and Canada. His latest feature, “Forbidden Cuba” (2015) is a cautionary tale that tells a bold and timely story of Cuba (and one lost American) on the verge of massive change. Art heads Great Jones Productions in New York. He also teaches film at Hunter College / City University of New York and has been nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards / Los Angeles.

Filmography: Art Jones • Writer, Director, Producer

“Dodgeball” (1995), narrative short

“Going Nomad” (1998), narrative feature

“Lustre” (2004), narrative feature

“The Blood in this Town” (2011), documentary feature

“The Dynamiter” (2011), narrative feature, producer (Berlinale 2011, LAFF 2011)

“Forbidden Cuba” (2016), narrative feature

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I wanted to shoot a feature film in Cuba, defying all odds and naysayers, to reveal an island and a lost American on the verge of revolutionary change.

I have been fascinated by Cuba, its culture and its difficult history with the United States ever since I was a boy. Growing up, I found real connection through Cuban-born friends, their families and the stories they'd tell. In my mind, Cuba was vividly alive but completely out of reach. It was taboo, dangerous, off the radar, forbidden. It begged to be experienced and explored.

Three years ago, I saw little chance for a thaw in the Cold War relationship between the U.S. and its longtime adversary. I embarked on making the first American feature in Cuba since 1959, aiming to shake-up expectations, speed an end to the senseless embargo, and build new connections between the people of America and Cuba.

With Obama’s bold move to re-shape U.S. relations with Cuba, our project is now especially timely and needed.

There needs to be a breaking-down of misunderstanding and misconceptions about the island nation just 90 miles off the coast of America. Viewers deserve to be part of the larger discussion about HOW we build a sustainable new future together with Cuba, rising above our conquistador past to engage with care and thoughtful action.

I also saw a burning need for a tale of caution and redemption of the American soul. We are a people who have lost their way in a consumer-driven, success-crazed maze. I believe our eyes need to be opened to simple joys, to the building of real community, to what it means to be human.

To accomplish this, my friends and I embraced the kind of guerilla filmmaking that would make Che Guevara proud. Back in 2012, on the day Hurricane Sandy roared into New York, our team battled the elements for hundreds of miles to find an open airport. We landed in Havana with just a small group of American and French filmmakers to shoot for three intense weeks across the island. Without permits, we captured a bold and humorous story, in the streets, in homes and businesses. We clandestinely incorporated the vibrancy and beauty of Cuba and its people into a film that's equal parts “Local Hero” and “Heart of Darkness.”

I wanted to capture this country of incredible radiance, new possibilities, and striking contradictions. I wanted to make a film that takes narrative storytelling and collides it with documentary filmmaking, where fictional characters and scripted story lines intersect with real people and unexpected events - to reveal something greater.

I am eager to tell the truth about this fast-changing island nation - about new paths for a new future - through our story of caution, hope and renewal.