6 factors that made Havana a Fast and Furious destination

We still have to wait a year to see the worldwide screening of Fast&Furious 8, but we can already give you a sneak preview of what you'll find in the latest instalment of the popular saga: parts of it where filmed in Cuba in what instantly became the first super Hollywood production to be shot in Havana. No doubt this all adds to keep the momentum going for Cuba's capital city which has received its fair share of high-profile visitors recently. Totetto's saga will show you Havana's multi-tonal façade, verging between the classical and the marginalised, with its impressive and decaying architecture, its streets, its famous old cars and its honest and wonderful people - owners of a unique wealth that a multi-million-dollar production can't match.

6 factors that made Havana a Fast and Furious destination

Spoiler alert! Here you won’t actually be reading about any sneak previews into Fast&Furious 8. For that and to see Toretto’s Havana stunts you’ll have to wait until summer 2017 when the movie screens worldwide. All this post will be enlightening you on is some of the Cuban settings chosen for the film, the shooting of which shook up Havana for two weeks.

In fact, Cuba opened its doors to Hollywood with the eight instalment of the popular racing saga, almost as a gesture of the beginning of a beautiful friendship. On one hand, the cinema industry gained access to unique locations and professional (yet economic) local labour. On the other, Cuba gained maximum worldwide exposure as some of its most photogenic locations are showcased on the big screen for all to see, enjoy and get inspired, intrigued.

That’s what happens with big productions like this one, they generate interest in certain destinations, which, thanks to its success become trending topics for a while. The same will happen in Cuba, in fact Cuba is currently trendy for many other reasons, recent festivals, concerts and, of course, let’s not forget, Chanel’s recent catwalk parade. The Fast&Furious 8 will be just another thing to keep Cuba hot one everyone’s lips. Why? I’ll give you a few reasons: its people.

Beyond the typical cliches of: happy, sensual and party-going, Cubans are hospitable, open, easy-going and good-natured. Michelle Rodriguez, one of the leading actresses in F&F8, had come to Havana 15 years ago, and upon coming back rediscovered “the beauty of warm, welcoming people. A little reminder of what the material world is missing…Heart”. Her selfies on Instagram and walks along the city are a testament to that.

At the same time, Vin Diesel looked like an authentic Cuban “mulato” among the crowd. Stripped of his typical cold and hard image on the screen, he didn’t skimp on smiles and hugs when greeting the neighbours of the places where he filmed. As a matter of fact, he shared a panoramic of the Cayo Hueso neighbourhood, where he was moved by the simplicity of the people.

Its architecture

The races on the last instalment of the saga run along some of Havana’s main roads, like the avenue along the Malecon seawall, Galeaon Street or Infanta Avenue, all flanked by aesthetically pleasing buildings that have miraculously stood the test of time and which still look amazing even under heavy layers of dirt and after decades of structural neglect. They’re all unique and authentic gems of Havana’s eclecticism movement. “The City of Columns” as writer Alejo Carpentier once described Havana, will show you its decaying face at full speed ahead, where vestiges of a grand cosmopolitan city punished by the passage of time, slovenliness and saltpetre refuse to give into adversity.

Its classic cars

Even when the Fast&Furious 8 team brought their own cars from the U.S., you’ll still be able to feast your eyes on authentic Cuban beauties as the film includes scenes showcasing these vintage Cuban marvels locally known as almendrones. Coming to Cuba is like venturing and interacting with a rolling museum: American bodyworks that run with a Japanese engine and Russian gearbox, unique Frankenstein-like hybrids that refuse to end up as scrap metal, and which soldier on day after day roaming the city and challenging the passage of time. Some of them look brand new, as if they’d come straight out from the factory and are available for a ride – authentic tourist magnets that for a few CUC will show you Havana in style.

Its other face

Los Sitios, Colon, La Victoria and Cayo Hueso are a few of the neighbourhoods where Fast&Furious 8 filmed, and it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to predict that the movie will show that rough side of Havana, of go-getters, smugglers and marginality. But fear not, that’s just another face of a city where multiple universes coexist inside a country unfairly pigeonholed in its beaches, its colours and its speeches. Nevertheless, the old cars’ races are a very real and authentic every day thing: they’re taxi drivers trying to make it in the world.

Its food

It may not appear or be explicitly shown during a scene, but local gastronomy is part of this film judging by the loyalty of the film crew to certain paladares like La Guarida or La Fontana. Moreover, the Cuban capital has suddenly been inundated by a wide array of similar dining establishments, some of which aren’t as gourmet as they make themselves to be, yet compensate with unique charm and personality for what they lack in their menus.

Its music

The film’s official soundtrack will be featuring Cuban music. No doubt about it. You can call it intuition, sixth sense or simply logic but the Fast&Furious saga is famous for always having included urban culture elements and underground music genres like reggaeton which has also invaded the music scene of this country. You may hear a fragment of the so-called “cubaton” (the slightly different Cuban version of reggaeton), and you might ask yourself if what you’re hearing is indeed Cuban music in all its glory. Relax. Fear not. At the end this is Hollywood, and the reality is always richer and more multi-tonal, in this case quite literally.

Summing up

With more fans than haters, Fast&Furious 8’s journey through Havana was a resounding success: extra-officially people say that the filming, which in total is no more than 15-minutes-long, left millions of dollars in the island, not only in the cost of technicians and professionals contracted, but also in transport and food and expenditure.

Most of the filming crew stayed at the Melia Cohiba, but many others opted for casas particulares which are proliferating everywhere around the city, especially as hotel accommodation is under more pressure than ever now to cope with the growing number of visitors. Many Cubans feathered their nest with the movie and prayed for new productions to come and film over here. And their prayers were answered almost instantly: only a week later, a few scenes for the next instalment of the Transformers saga were filmed in Havana. Will we see a Cuban autobot? We can holy hope.

Ely Milan

Ely Milan

Senior Storyteller

Two passions: travelling and writing chronicles. I nose out things hidden from sight, ignored by the...

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