Sunday, February 26, 2006

Zombís en la Habana

To anyone who has every seen a George Romero movie, I want to share with you an idea for a movie that I think will be an instant cult classic: Zombis en la Habana. To those that haven't ever seen a Romero movie, check out the original Dawn of the Dead (though the remake is also very fun to watch). For other Zombie movie suggestions see yesterday's post.

My screenplay borrows part of its title from the seventies era Cuban cartoon film Vampiros en la Habana, which I suggest to all Spanish speakers enthusiastically. Subtitled versions are available for rent in hip American rental stores like Video Americain. I also think that children in the movie should be watching "Vampiros en La Habana" at some point early in the movie, focusing on the introduction where the narrator says "pero Pepé se involucró en otra guerra... una guerra sorda y cruel... una guerra de vampiros," after a second of the musical introduction of the movie (which includes some of the wickedest horns I have ever heard) the family can be left in the dark from an "apagón," a roving blackout.

The rhythm of the movie should borrow much from the traditional Romero narrative, while the subtext of the plot should refer to two events/periods in modern Cuban history. The movie will be set, first of all, in "pleno periodo especial" after the collapse of the Soviet Union and during the intensification of the US American war of attrition on the Cuban Revolution during which time famine and hunger were rampant in Cuba for the first time since 1959 and streams of "boat people" headed for Miami in the largest emigration wave since the Mariel boat lift of 1980. In addition, the the Cuban government response in the film will draw a lot from the public health response to the AIDS epidemic in Cuba.

I figure the story will start out with a family drama about finding food, work and money in Special Period Cuba as background media start to make vague references to an outbreak of a strange disease near a US American biological research/bioweapons facility. Details about the origins of the disease can be borrowed from Romero's "The Crazies" in which a plane carrying an experimental biological weapon crashes near Pittsburgh. The news of strange deaths and riots will become increasingly central to the attention of the characters on everything from Radio Reloj (which beeps every second of the day and tells the time on every minute as narrators give news, propaganda, and announcements between minutes) to a clip of a Castro speech on the incident to the evening news.

At some point a case of Zombismo will reach the island, perhaps by boat people fleeing from Miami, or perhaps involving the Guantanamo naval base in some way. Castro will give a speech declaring this an act of imperialist aggression, and the already disintigrating chaos of Cuban life in the special period will collapse, resulting in military organization, debates on the appropriate response, quarantine of sick people, etc. This point of the movie should draw on imagery from riots in Centro Habana and Habana Vieja in 1984, with battles between zombis, hungry Cubans and "Constructores" -Castro loyalists brought in to quell such disturbances.

The zombi attacks must bring out the resiliant spirit of Cubans and the Cuban sense of humor despite the "susto fatigado" (exhausted shock) of daily life during the collapse of Cuban society.

At one point, borrowing from the dark comedy that at least one Cuban doctor used to cope with the difficulty her patients faced, a sign in the hospital should read "Está prohibido hablar de la cosa" (It is forbidden to talk about the thing - Originally a doctor in Santa Clara had to stop her patients from complaining about the hardships of the special period because she did not have time to hear all of their concerns and still treat all her patients).

This outline is very vague, indeed, I have left it fairly vague on purpose. I think any such movie should have a strongly Cuban identity and sense of humor, and that it should be primarily written or Co-written by a Cuban (and Roig has been only slightly helpful in the matter). Other possible details have occurred or been suggested to me. I think that the drama of the movie during the full crisis should unfold at Hospital Ameijeires, which towers over the skyline of Centro Habana at the Malecón. Others have suggested that Cuban Santería or the country's proximity to Haiti should be used to further explore the origins of the mythology of zombies based in "voodoo" (mixtures of Catholic and African traditions).

I am putting this idea out in the public domain because I'd rather encourage the idea to develop than claim ownership over it. However, I reserve the right to take some part (however small) in the production, and to demand that a Cuban be the main driving force behind subsequent development of the plot.

Also, anyone with links to Tom Savini or George Romero should bring this to his attention. This is an instant cult classic with almost unlimited potential.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

dear god, this sounds marvellous.