Cuba's Forgotten Jewels: a Haven in Havana

Marion Finkels Kreith was fourteen when she and her family fled Nazi-occupied Europe and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. At a time when most countries had shut their doors to the refugees, one of the only options for escape was a Caribbean island – Cuba. Among the many Holocaust stories, that of Jewish immigrants who survived by fleeing to Cuba is barely known. Refugees who made it to Havana, including young Marion, found work to support themselves and their family members in a newly transported trade: diamond polishing. Firsthand survivor accounts take us back to 1940s Havana – an era at once tumultuous, heart breaking, and intoxicating – to illuminate an emigration success story.
Spanish and Hebrew subtitled versions available.

  • Robin Truesdale
    A Beautiful Equation, Conviction
  • Judy Kreith
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    JOYAS OLVIDADAS DE CUBA: Un refugio en La Habana
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Immigration, History, Jewish
  • Runtime:
    46 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 10, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    210,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Cuba, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    1080 24p
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Impact Docs Awards

    Award of Merit
  • St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs 2019
    St Petersburg
    United States
    February 14, 2019
  • Belgium Premiere - Intl Holocaust Awareness Day
    January 27, 2019
  • Miami Beach Cinemateque
    Miami Beach
    United States
    March 16, 2018
  • Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
    United States
    February 3, 2019
  • Miami Jewish Film Festival
    United States
    January 17, 2018
  • Seattle Jewish Film Festival
    United States
    March 18, 2018
  • Laemmle Theaters
    Los Angeles
    United States
    March 19, 2018
  • Dairy Center for the Arts
    Boulder, CO
    United States
    November 24, 2018
Distribution Information
  • National Center for Jewish Film
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Robin Truesdale, Judy Kreith

Co-Directed by Robin Truesdale and Judy Kreith

ROBIN TRUESDALE is a documentary filmmaker and the founder of Two Hands Films. She has directed, produced, and edited films that have screened at festivals and conferences worldwide, including A Beautiful Equation: Einstein, Bohr and Grandmothers, a 2015 Platinum Remi Award winner. Robin began her career as a news editor for a Denver television station. After years of constructing news and educational stories through video, she was introduced to documentary film’s powerful potential to communicate deeper stories about people, cultures, and issues of the times. Her work deals primarily with social justice, cultural, and humanitarian issues. Robin received her MS Degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado.

JUDY KREITH is a professional dance educator and choreographer. She received her MA Degree from Stanford University. Her mother, Marion Finkels Kreith, lived in Cuba as a teenage refugee and is the key inspiration for this film. Judy has extensively studied Cuban dance and, in Havana, has also worked on-site with Cuban historians to research the Jewish refugees’ diamond polishing industry that flourished there during the Second World War. Judy contributes her extensive research and knowledge, along with her personal connection and passion for this project and its potential impact. She has spoken on this topic to many groups, including a conference at the University of Antwerp, Belgium in 2015.

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Director Statement

Judy Kreith - The story is of sincere personal importance to me because my mother, Marion Finkels Kreith, was one of those refugees. After her escape from Nazi occupied Europe to Cuba, she worked in the little-known but very successful diamond polishing business that was created in Havana during WWll. The industry in Cuba was an economic life-saver for both Cubans and refugees during the war years. In our film, her memories mingle with those of other refugees who recall their escape to Havana and life as immigrants in an exotic and unfamiliar land. It is a poignant tale of resilience and perseverance.

Robin Truesdale - I’m drawn to personal stories, attracted to the faces and voices that share experiences of fear, doubt, surprise, and joy. As both a journalist and a visual artist, my aim is to illuminate stories that are unique and individual, yet also remind us of our commonalities. People circulate around each other’s stories daily, sometimes taking notice for an instant and then moving on, sometimes even turning away. Documentary filmmaking is a way to preserve moments in history – a significant event, a sparkle in someone’s eye, or a leap of faith. Film gives people the chance to look more closely into the lives of others from different backgrounds and lifestyles. More than a form of communication, it offers a pathway to experience and understanding.