Dream Havana

the film


Dream Havana is the story of Cuban writers Ernesto Santana and Jorge Mota. Men who be-came separated by an ocean, politics and their own choices, but remain bound by their deep friendship and mutual respect.

The writers met during the early 80’s, a time of relative calm and prosperity in Cuba. During those years, Jorge and Santana were the center of a group of writers, poets, artists and rockers. In the midst of good times, careers were being chosen and paths were being set. Santana already knew that he would never leave the island, just as Jorge already knew that someday he must. Santana, now a professor, remained in Havana delving ever deeper into the world of literature and his own introspective verse. Jorge began a series of explorations of the island, seeking to know his country before he left. He would return to Santana’s house with tales of his adventures and Santana would always be there to listen.

In 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union, the political and economic climate in Cuba began to deteriorate rapidly. The crisis known as the "Special Period"
brought with it extreme economic privations and caused riots throughout the island. In August 1994, at the height of the crisis, Castro announced that people would no longer be prevented from leaving the island. Jorge and his wife, Dora, took to the ocean in a tiny boat, as would more than 33,000 of their fellow Cubans. After 12 days at sea, Jorge and Dora were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard and brought to Guantánamo Bay. What followed was a 3 year oddyssey of refugee camps and constant uncertainty. Eventually, Jorge found a sponsor and began a new life in America with a new job as a reporter for a Spanish language newspaper in Chicago.

The two men continued to correspond through letters and audio cassettes. Santana, surviving sometimes on bread and water, made it through the worst of the "Special Period" and his writing began to flower. In Havana, Santana began to publish small works of poetry and short stories, while in Chicago, Jorge quickly gains a reputation as a top investigative reporter. In 2001, Jorge wins the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ highest award and in Cuba, Santana wins his country’s top literary prize, the Alejo Carpentier Award. Santana is given permission to leave the island for the first time in his life to attend the Guadalajara International Bookfair. Jorge flies to México to reunite with his old friend at the awards ceremony. The story ends at the sea where Jorge takes Santana for his first glimspe of the Pacific.

the writers

Ernesto Santana

Ernesto Santana was born in Puerto Padre, Cuba in 1958. He received a degree in Spanish and Literature from the Superior Teaching Institute in Cuba. He has several books of short stories published including "Nudos en el pañuelo" (1993), "Bestiario pánico" (1995), "Mariposas nocturnas" (1999), and a book of poetry titled "Escorpión en el mapa" (1998). His works have also been included in various anthologies.

Jorge Mota

Jorge Mota was born in Havana Cuba in 1962. After leaving medical school in 1984, Jorge began a 10 year period of physical and spiritual exploration of the island. In 1994, he escaped from Cuba and after a year and a half as a refugee at the Guantanamo Naval Base, he arrived in the United States. In 1997, with the help of his friend and sponsor Julian Crews, he came to Chicago where he began working as a reporter for the Spanish Newspaper Hoy. In 2000, Jorge received the Guillermo Martínez award, the highest honor awarded by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In 2002, he began his career in television as Managing Editor for Telemundo Chicago. In 2006, Jorge moved to Miami to be close to his mother and sister who had just arrived from Havana. He continues to work in television and is now Assignment News Editor for the Univision national network.

filmmaker’s bios

Gary Marks, Producer/Director

In 1998, Gary Marks left his hometown Chicago and a thriving antique concern in order to rekindle his passion for music. Gary traveled to Havana, where he had the opportunity to study piano with some of Cuba's finest musicians. During the years he lived there, he formed deep and lasting relationships. The desire to communicate his experiences and impressions of Cuba led to his entry into the world of documentary filmmaking. "Dream Havana" is Mr. Marks' first film, and his most challenging and rewarding experience to date.

Jamie Godfrey, Editor

Jamie Godfrey, is a budding editor, motion graphics artist, and title designer. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor's degree in Film. She has worked on short films, commercials, and corporate videos. Jamie is fluent is English and Spanish. "Dream Havana" is her first feature.

Maximilla Lukacs, Editor

Maximilla was born in Hungary and is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. She has been a freelance editor since 2001 and has edited for Maggie Hadley-West, Raymond Pettibon, Mark Borthwyk and Vincent Gallo. She has worked on numerous features, TV shows and music videos, and has recently finished directing and editing her own 30 minute short "Kill Your Darlings" with co-director/writer Sarah Flicker. Maximilla lives in Los Angeles.

Bruce Neal, Story Consultant

Bruce Neal is a poet, dramatist and screenwriter working out of Chicago. He was a co-founder of the performance art group The Dol Furies. His work has been featured on NPR, PBS, HBO, Stage Left, Prop Theatre, Chopin Theatre, Cabaret Metro, Theatre IgLoo, Lounge Ax and many others. In December, he begins filming a DV feature based on an original screenplay he wrote with his partner, Jan Henrichsen.

filmmaker’s Q&A

An Interview with Producer/Director Gary Marks.

When did the idea of making this documentary first begin and why?

I was sitting in an outdoor café in Havana with Santana after having just watched a movie. Santana and his best friend Mota had both recently won major literary awards and I just turned to Santana and said, “you know, I think the story of you and Mota would make a great movie”.

Although I had been living in Havana principally studying music, video projects had begun occurring to me. I was looking for ways to speak about the experience I was having and perhaps because Havana is so beautiful, video seemed to be the appropriate medium. "Dream Havana" was actually the third idea I had had for a film, but this time the idea quickly took root and two months after the conversation with Santana we began pre-production.

What was your biggest challenge in making this documentary?

In my past career as an antique dealer I needed to respond to objects, simply and instinctually. Either I liked something or I didn’t, I either bought it or not. In the film world I still try to respond simply and instinctually, but when your editor asks you “OK, what don’t you like about it”, you are suddenly forced to think about things in a way that you never had to do before. Learning to answer the question of why something is working or not, has certainly been my biggest challenge in making this film.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently during production and post-production? Is there anything missing?

I think my biggest mistake during production was not understanding that words and talking heads are generally not enough to tell a story. Because of that we had to return and film the subjects on several additional occasions to make sure we had enough visuals to illustrate their lives.

For me, post production in a documentary is or perhaps should be a mixture of intention and discovery. As this was my first film, it was almost all discovery and no intention. I didn’t have a clue what basic editing consisted of and I didn’t know what structure might work for the film. Next time I would certainly try and have more of an idea of how I’m going to tell the story before I begin editing.

I guess I don’t feel anything is missing. I just think the process of making documentaries is very unpredictable. There is a truth to what your subjects say and what you are able to film and part of your job as a filmmaker is to learn how to work with that reality that you’ve been given.

What impact do you hope to have with this program?

I don’t believe my aspirations have ever been more than to just tell a good story and to try and share some of the incredible experiences and wonderful people I met while living in Cuba. That said, if the movie helped Santana find a wider audience for his writing I would be delighted.

What advice would you give an emerging filmmaker?

Understand and believe in your project deeply. Listen intently to the feedback and criticisms that you receive.

Why did you choose to present your film in public television?

I don’t believe my documentary can be considered mainstream entertainment and once you’ve done something outside of the norm, it’s difficult to get commercial television stations interested. Public television I think offers filmmakers the widest exposure possible to an audience that is receptive to more challenging works.

learn more

About The Film

Film Website

Chicago Now.com Article

Nuevo Siglo News Article

El Universal Article

El Porvenir Article

Ernesto Santana Selected Bibliography
Nudos en el pañuelo (1993)
Bestiario pánico - Publisher: Casa Editora Abril (1996) - Out of Print--Limited Availability
Mariposas nocturnas - Publisher: Extramuros (1999) - Out of Print--Limited
Escorpión en el mapa - Publisher: Lulu.com (June 13, 2009) - Out of Print--Limited Availability
Ave y nada - Winner of the Premio Nacional de Literatura Cubana Alejo Carpentier in 2002 - Publisher: Lulu.com - Available at www.atompress.org

Journalism and Book Organizations

National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ)

The Guadalajara International Book Fair

film credits

Hexagram Productions presents


Produced and Directed by
Gary Marks

Maximilla Lukacs
Jamie Godfrey

Story Consultant
Bruce Neal

Sound Designer / Sound Mixer
Lou Mallozzi

Original Songs Composed by
Descemer Bueno

Additional Music Composed by
Shane Salois
Tim Daisy
Blake Sloane
Gary Marks

Original Music Recorded at
EMI Latin Miami Beach, FL
Experimental Sound Studio Chicago, IL

Recording Engineer
Descemer Bueno
Lou Mallozzi
Jacob Ross

In Order of Appearance

Jorge Luis Mota
Ernesto Santana
Gustavo Fernendez-Larrea
Francicsc “Panchi” Martinez-Cueto
Narciso Diaz
Wilfredo “Ifi” Michel
Doralice Pupo
Emerita “Memy” Marrero Perez
Julian Crews
Alejandro Escalona
Antonio Perez
Maggie Mateo
Yaima Tamayo

Assistant Director
Michael DiGioia


Assistant Producer
Noel Alvarez Martin

First Camera
Ernesto Granado Rigueiro

Second Camera
Michael DiGioia

Location Sound
“Tato” Ricardo Perez Ramon


Camera Operators
Michael DiGioia
Elias Lopez-Trabada
Andrew Dryer

Additional Camera
Jamie Godfrey
Maximilla Lukacs

Location Sound
Richard Pooler
Byron Smith
Dave Smith


Camera Operator
Michael DiGioia

Location Sound
Richard Pooler

Additional Editing
Hannah David & Sharon Zurek of
Black Cat Productions
Eric Burton
Michael Taylor

Title Sequences
D. Christopher Krause

Laurie Little

Photos and Music of the “Espiritas” in Cuba Courtesy of:
Jose Antonio Garcia Molina
Maria Mercedes Garrido Gutierrez

Photo Stills “Hoy Newspaper”
Antonio Perez

Additional Footage Supplied by
Johnny Simmons, ASC
Great Productions New York, NY
Tom Palazzolo
World Relief

Tape Mastering
Media Process Group (MPG)
Alex Kogan (DKP)

Allied Vaughn

Spanish/English Translations
Jamie Godfrey
Laura Godfrey
Arturo Arabitg
Ernesto Santanta
Maggie Mateo

French Translation
Isabelle Louis

Music Licensing
The Rights Workshop

Aida Yohannes

Thanks to
Andres Alen
Jerry Blumenthal
Alejandro Escalona
Laura Godfrey
Betty Graninger
Bob Hercules
Fernando Marquet
Bruce Moore
Bill Siegel
Adam Singer
Laura Spyer
Sharon Zurek

Written by Descemer Bueno, Kevin Ochoa
Used by permission of EMI April Music Inc.


Gary Marks