Private Project

Cabaret Cuba

"A nostalgic arthouse documentary telling the true story of the best dancers and choreographers who passed through Cuba’s 1950s world-renowned Tropicana Cabaret."

This 68min feat. documentary focuses on choreographers, singers and retired dancers, some with over 60 years work experience in Cuban Dance, Cabaret and Carnival, and theirs fears that this once world-renowned art form has lost its importance it once had.

  • Madeleine Duba
    Czech It Out, Water?, Love Notes, Robbie Williams - 80ies 'Skiving'
  • Madeleine Duba
    Czech It Out, Water?, Love Notes, Robbie Williams - 80ies 'Skiving'
  • Homero Gonzalez
    Salsa Cubana Show / Gonzalez Dance Company
  • Katie Ramsden
    Post Production / Associate Producer
  • Santiago Alfonso
    Key Cast
    "Santiago Alfonso"
    Yuli, The Carlos Acosta Story
  • Luis Chacon Aspirina
    Key Cast
    "Luis Chacon Aspirina"
    Buena Vista
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    nostalgic, arthouse, documentary, cuban, cabaret, dance, music, carnival, havana, cuba, tropicana, lifestage, history, culture, historic, capture, socio, economic, philosophical, lifestyle, artform, streetlife, latin, afrocuban, rhythms, contemporary, art, arts, worldcinema, international
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 8 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 2, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    100,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Teatro America
    August 17, 2019
Director Biography - Madeleine Duba

Madeleine was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. Inspired by her father Cenek Duba, a Czech Film Director, in school she became known as the 'creative artist' which partly compensated for being very shy in class.

Art Degrees:
-Exchange year at the University of Applied Arts Prague 'Illustration' in 1994
-‘Visuelle Kommunication' (BA) at the HFG Lucerne Switzerland 1998
- MASTER in Communication Art&Design at the Royal College of Art 2001 (London, UK).

Madeleine is passionate about raising public awareness of human stories and undertaking critical reflection on social development. Her films aim to view the world through different lenses. Through her creative approach of documentary filmmaking she lets people share their soul with the world. Through film she aims to explore themes like identity, migration, religion, social and ecological sustainability. Madeleine creates a platform for gaining an insight of different communities.

From 2012 until 2019:
Based in London, Madeleine is a freelance director, editor and illustration artist and mother-of-two, she just finished her first feature length documentary 'Cabaret Cuba (68min) of collected film footage over the last 7 years. In 1997 her short documentary idea ‘Emil Manser’ (Das Luzerner Stadtoriginal) finds realisation in a collaboration, and Madeleine re-edits a new version in 2004 (10min), (in memory of Emil’s death). In 1998 ‘Czech It Out’ (14min) is screened at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. Madeleine has collaborated with film production companies in the London, Prague, Madrid, New York and Havana (Cuba).

Under the name of DubAnimation she has gained profound experience in the field of animation mixed with live action. She provides a complete visualizing service - shooting boards, storyboards, illustration, animation, mixed with live action, compositing, editing. ‘From idea to output.’

From 2001 until 2011:
Madeleine's animation work focuses on content that deals with social critical, 'punky' female subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Her vision is to create highly intricate work inspired by various phases or moments of life.

Madeleine has directed several short films including:
-Award winning 'Water?', Gold at the 'Prix Leonardo' (Italy), shortlisted for the BAFTA (UK)
-‘Hangover’ (short) was screened at the L.A. Films Festival and Animadrid.
-Robbie Williams Music Promo, The 80ies 'Skiving' was in the running for the British Animation Awards.
'Love Notes’ (short), she has won the Maple Leaf Award at the Canada International Film Festival in 2009.
-'WAPIN' - music videos for international artists Chombo Loco featuring Panama Artist O.S.O. 507 and Angolan Artist Garcia Baxe ‘Angola'.

Madeleine has art directed for London Production Companies as well as for the feature film 'The Experiment' (2004). Her work has been shown on numerous film festivals all around the world.

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Director Statement

This documentary is an important resource in capturing the disappearing history and culture of a club that is fundamental to Cuba’s national history. It is a piece of work of historic importance and in itself an artefact that preserves a cultural moment lost in time. To a European/ Western audience it is a look into a radically different socio-economic-philosophical lifestyle that isn’t so driven by economic motivations. It is a place where passion drives money rather than the reverse. Dance culture as a free art form epitomises this societal drive away from consumerist and capitalist society. It is an act that requires no commodity you can buy, where your only requirement to participate is your body.

Dance is a universal narrative that explores the key emotions in us all: love, passion and community. Therefore, this is a narrative that we can all hook onto and be entertained by. Dance itself is a powerful medium to tell a narrative. This documentary aims to comment on the state of Cuban identity from a native perspective. Not only is this documentary a pleasurable and exciting watch for dance enthusiasts, but spectacular visual entertainment for family viewing and enticing for those historically aware and intrigued about a behind the scenes historical narrative of a Cuban community. We can therefore say this would appeal and is appropriate to people of all ages.

What was Tropicana? Founded in 1950s Havana, Tropicana was a pleasure dome, a dazzling and glamourous Cabaret show of singers and dancers in jaw-dropping sequined costumes who performed for some of the most prestigious guests of the time. Their influence placed Cuba on the map as one of the most desired destinations to visit. This documentary is an opportunity to see behind the scenes of a dying and forgotten art, the Tropicana Cabaret Company. It captures a moment in history that has been neglected by the wider world despite the worldwide success of Tropicana. A culture with so much to show and yet so much hidden. Czech-Swiss born award-winning filmmaker Madeleine Duba (nominated for BAFTA, British Animation Award, CBS Jumbotron N.Y, winner of Canada Film Festival and Prix Leonardo Italy) spotlights dance as one of the key epithets of Cuban identity. Via an on-the- ground documentary style, this is an opportunity to open the doors to the Cuban national identity, a fusion that spans European, Spanish and African ancestry in its own unique nature and culminates in a stage show like no other. It showcases the full breadth of Cuban movements and rhythms from cabaret and street salsa to Afro-Cuban dance, from the classically trained ballerinas to the street dancers of Havana. Produced by Cuban classically-trained Tropicana dancer, Homero Gonzalez, now a London based choreographer, we trace his life in Cuba, and that of several of the men and women he danced with, as he lives and breathes the art form and culture of Cuban dance.

We are introduced via a series of stunning 1950’s unseen archived colour footage of the Tropicana dancers whilst meeting Tropicana directors, Santiago Alfonso, Andres Gutierrez, Raffael Hernandez, Gilberto Boza, of the thriving club in the 60s, 70s and 80s. We begin in the 60s with footage of Fidel Castro’s leadership. We are then introduced to each dancer reminiscing today about their careers as young dancers at the Tropicana cabaret. They detail how their bodies have changed over the years but they still live and breathe the memory of this uniquely Cuban way of life. We see how their staggering athleticism survives to the present day when they are now in their 60s and 70s. This this is montaged with their anecdotal accounts of the heyday of the Tropicana Club. These character introductions are woven within clips of Cuba’s living streets where dancing, singing and happiness seem constantly in evidence despite the clear lack of resources. We then meet choreographers and musicians who played a key part in the Tropicana becoming a world-renowned show that toured London, Paris and Monaco to name a few big stages. There is a focus on the key components behind the art and we see what goes into organising Carnival and how fundamental this is to the soul of the people who design the costumes, the performers and organisers. The narrative may be a nostalgic lament of a culture and youth that no longer exists, but the message is an optimistic fundamental belief that Cuba will constantly renew and invent itself. After all they say, “it’s not the lack of resources, it’s your lack of resourcefulness that stops you.” Our final image is of the new and hopeful generation of Cubanistas dancing together.