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photo © Johannes Praus

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2014

A free treatment program for transgenders in Cuba is the focus of Dutch-born Daniel Abma’s graduation film from the “Konrad Wolf” University of Film and Television in Babelsberg.

“In November 2013, we went to Cuba for research and filming during the visit of two Dutch and Belgian gender surgeons who came to operate,” Abma recalls. “We followed several transgenders, one of the main characters we found was Odette, who had been looking forward to her surgery for several years. But the pressure of the church and her family forced her to cancel at the very last minute.”

“Afterwards, Odette felt devastated. Now she is striving to be more independent and stronger, so that, this year when the surgeons return to Havana, she will get another chance at surgery. We will continue to film her courageous struggle for happiness – on this isolated island that is in a transition itself.”

The program for Cuban transgenders was recently launched by Mariela Castro, the daughter of the president and niece of El Comandante, Fidel Castro. Nowadays, all Cubans know her as the champion of gay and transgender rights and, as the head of the state office for sexual health, Mariela has been supported by two gender surgeons from the Netherlands and Belgium who fly to Havana to operate.

According to Mariela Castro, helping transgenders belongs to the heritage of the revolution of 1959 because it is all about emancipation and self-realization. Transgenders are part of the socialist society and need to be supported by everybody. This is the official message to the people of Cuba.

But TRANSIT HAVANA also highlights the tensions surrounding the transgenders. Is the poor socialist island with its strong religious beliefs and Latin American machismo really turning into a safe haven for transgenders? Or is the everyday reality not fit for change?

Abma’s previous feature-length documentary, BEYOND WRIEZEN, premiered at the IDFA in 2012 and has been shown at numerous international festivals, winning awards in Potsdam, Minsk, Sarajevo and Kiev, among others.

Genre Human Interest, Society
Category Documentary
Director Daniel Abma
Screenplay Alex Bakker
Cinematography Johannes Praus
Producer Holger Lochau
Co-Producer Iris Lammertsma
Production Company Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, in co-production with JvdW Film/Amsterdam
 Spanish, Dutch
Shooting Dates November 2013, May & November 2014
Festivals Karlovy Vary 2016, Havana 2016
With backing from The Netherlands Film Fund

JvdW Film