Many, including myself, consider "When Harry Met Sally" to be one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time. Rob Reiner's approach to include testimonials from elderly couples (the stories are real, but retold by actors), brought a sense of unfiltered transparency to that story and helped explain to the audience the struggles that Harry and Sally were facing from a bird's-eye-view. Did the movie need the testimonials? Not necessarily. But did those sideline stories give you a better understanding of what love is supposed to look like after a hard fought battle of not only seeking it, but keeping it alive for a lifetime? Absolutely.
Reiner, being one of my favorite directors, inspired me to take on a similar approach with the Hialeah series. I, and a large majority of our audience, knows what it's like to grow up in a Cuban family. What about the rest? How about those who just enjoy the comedy of Kay's situation? I for one did not just want to make this show a comedy, but an opportunity to truly educate a new audience about something they may have little knowledge about.
"It's NOT OKAY to wear a Che Guevara T-shirt as a fashion statement!"
The testimonies that run before each episode are a glimpse into a very harsh past being told by actual Cuban exiles, one of them being my very own grandfather (the portly jolly fellow with the mustache). I felt that this was my chance to surface some of these stories that were exposed only within my family; stories that are similar to many Cuban families. Why? Because now, more than ever, stories like this must shine a light to wash out the cruel stereotypes given to immigrants who come to this country for the right reasons. Why? Because people should know why it's NOT OKAY to wear a Che Guevara T-shirt as a fashion statement! The list of "WHY'S" is very long.
Through my 12 years of producing everything from social advocacy videos to movies and everything in between, I've learned the hard way that a film with nothing to say is easily forgotten. So if you, as an artist, have nothing to say then why say anything at all? This is the issue with the times we live in today. There is a plethora of content available at our fingertips, but what are we really learning? What are we really filling our minds with? Is it one-dimensional gibberish that has a life-span of 15 seconds in our brains, or is it true substance that we can embrace and include as part of the index that our starving minds forgot they had?
"They are the folks who lived and breathed Cuban air..."
This approach, like the Hialeah project as a whole, was very experimental. I am humbled by how many have truly appreciated the prologues simply because they are the foundation from which all of the storylines were conceptualized. Unlike "When Harry Met Sally" these are not actors, these are the real deal. They are the folks who lived and breathed Cuban air and put everything on the line amongst a murderous and corrupt political system to give their families a fighting a chance in a free world.
At the end of the day this is a comedy and there's a lot to laugh about when it comes to the quirks that lie within the Cuban culture, its mannerisms and figures of speech. The testimonials are the key to unlocking the door that makes this show accessible to everybody. If not explained first, how would another culture understand the comedy behind the double context of "Rabo" at the end of episode 2? In the prologue of episode 5 they discuss the strength of Cuban coffee and its effect on someone who is virgin to it. In episode 6... well that one is my favorite and I'm not going to spoil it!
As an effort to build our community, we invite you nominate someone in your family who has a story to tell that would bring further authenticity to this series. As we continue writing scripts for the show, we would love the opportunity to diversify the voices who tell the Cuban tale and explain its idiosyncrasies. Respond to this blog post, write to us on Facebook or send us an email!