Bringing gear to Cuba at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Most Recent Additions... > Home, Away From Home

Home, Away From Home
Studio Space (Home) and Traveling Tips (Away From Home).


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old August 31st, 2008, 11:48 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Medellin, Colombia
Posts: 199
Bringing gear to Cuba

Hi
I will probably be travelling to Cuba soon and I wonder what your experiences are about bringing light video gear into this country. I would like to bring a laptop and a camera of about 2 kilos (semipro), and a small tripod. Laptop and camera I would take onboard ofcourse. How are the customs? I will be entering from Colombia.

Thanks for tips

Urban
Urban Skargren is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 31st, 2008, 02:11 PM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Barnt Green, England
Posts: 76
I was in Cuba last year, there is no issue in bringing laptops and camera equipment.
The whole place is a million miles away from how the governments of the U.S and U.K etc would make you believe, the people are friendly, it is probably one of the safest places you can go to travel and you will have the time of your life.
For shooting footage you will be in heaven, the scenery is amazing with small mountains overlooking miles of greenery and landscapes.
Visiting Havana is like going back in time to the 60`s, people have no problem in you taking there pictures and the backstreets are a sight never to be forgotten.

Hope this helps.
Jayson Corcoran is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 1st, 2008, 08:24 AM   #3
New Boot
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Birmingham, AL
Posts: 23
I was there with a church mission group in 2006. And I have to agree with what Jayson says.
We had no hassles with the government. And the people were friendly, the scenery is marvelous and the architecture in Havana really is a trip back in time.

I was advised by our contacts there, to keep my equipment "low profile". This was probably because we were a church group and they didn't want me to have to explain to customs why a church group was bringing in several thousand dollars worth of video equipment. Instead of my normal setup, I took a Sony TRV-900, Sennheiser mic, extra batteries and about 30 hours of tape, in a small bag. Customs never even looked at it.

I think if you stay with a modest setup that will do the job, you'll be fine.

Enjoy. it was the most memorable trip I've taken.

BTW, if your a religious person at all - drop in on a church service. Since restrictions were eased in the '90s, church attendance has exploded there. Pretty amazing.
Dave Vaughn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 2nd, 2008, 03:00 PM   #4
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 28
I second most everything above, but do so with a note of caution... I took a smallish package down in 2001 to shoot a doc about oil painters. I will say this, people are hungry in some place in Cuba where people are hungry there is theft. Sorry, but that is way it is. Not saying anything about Cubans, just that people got to eat. Keep a good eye on your gear and keep it close to you. Stay with people you know and trust (or get a referral). Don't do dumb s**t like take a camera out to get wasted at night in Havana.

As other have said above, the people were wonderfully friendly and the authorities were not a serious problem (but as others said, we kept it very low profile). Shooting went well, and since we were producing a product that basically gave support and recognition to Cuban artists, no one seemed to mind that we did not have official permission. The producer was also a well-known American in the area.

Some of the subjects of the film were party officials (you can tell from their semantics in the film), others were relatives of secret police etc. Everyone knew that what we were doing was legit, so we didnít have many worries.

I will not go through the whole tail, but 9/11 happened when we were there, and we were stuck for several weeks (I been stuck in much, much worse places. I would have been happy to stay longer). In the end our travel plans changes and we ended up leaving Holguin instead of Havana. It was a smaller airport with less people to crowd the inspection of security.

Again, to make a long story short, they found my gear, and the next thing I know I am off to get interrogated. Not pleasant, not at all. To make things worse, they tapes are in the producerís backpack. I wanted to do two things Ė which were 1. protect the tapes, and 2. not give any Cuban names (rule #1 in a dictatorship). Well, turns out it pisses off the secret police guys when you donít remember the names of the people you stayed with.

Again, Iíll truncate the whole story, but it was scary as hell. Plane was stopped, our gear unloaded, tapes found, and searched. Oh, and they donít ask if they can look either. At this point I was really happy that I was shooting legit material. We were only released after the producer busted out some top-secret get out of jail letter he had in his pocket. To put it mildly, the cocktail I was served minutes later on the plane was the best of my life.

So, in summary Ė donít be frightened - DO be smart. You can get into serious trouble if you are not prepared and have permission of the right people. Finally - if you get in trouble don't lie, and don't give names.
Andrew Buchanan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 6th, 2008, 03:11 PM   #5
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Medellin, Colombia
Posts: 199
Thanks for your replies. Seems no problem to bring gear...
By the way, anyone has had problems to enter the US after having been in Cuba? I am a Swedish citizen.
Urban Skargren is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 6th, 2008, 03:45 PM   #6
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Barnt Green, England
Posts: 76
I was refused entry to USA after going to Cube, you must get a new passport without the cuban stamp and all is fine.
Jayson Corcoran is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 6th, 2008, 08:46 PM   #7
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Medellin, Colombia
Posts: 199
This makes me worry...
Urban Skargren is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 7th, 2008, 04:42 PM   #8
Tourist
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Punta Arenas
Posts: 1
Third Country

The best way is throught a third country. Take your trip to mexico, dominicana, panama (by copa) and buy a flight to cuba without visa (buy a tourist visa in the airport) would you like to play secret agent?, try it! This is the best way for the people that will go to, before, the USA. Best regards
PATO
Patricio Riquelme is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 8th, 2008, 09:36 AM   #9
New Boot
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Birmingham, AL
Posts: 23
Maybe it was because we reminded Cuban customs that we were a church group from the US, but they did not stamp our passports as we were leaving. Don't know how that works for individuals or tourists, but worked for us.

I should point out that we did have a letter from the US State Department authorizing our trip, so we had a "get out of jail free" card. But we had no passport stamp.
Dave Vaughn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 8th, 2008, 12:06 PM   #10
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Barnt Green, England
Posts: 76
Ive never heard of passports not being stamped in Cuba, it is one of there laws to stamp all passports.
Ive had mine stamped everywhere I have travelled apart from Europe where we dont need a passport to travel.

Its a fact having an English passport gives you access to more countries than any other passport which I guess is a bonus for us.
Jayson Corcoran is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 9th, 2008, 09:47 AM   #11
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Raleigh, NC
Posts: 28
They have a neat way around the stamp for US passports... they hold the stamp at an angle and then twist it in a circle. You get the outer ring but not the middle where is says "Republica de Cuba" or whatever. Seriously. That or they don't stamp it at all (been there a couple of times). Everyone plays the game.

You will not have trouble going it's the coming back that gets you. I would go through Nassau... its very close (like a 1 - 1.5hr flight) and they aren't interested in scrutinizing passengers.

Since you are not a US citizen, I would not worry much.

David, I'd be cautious of calling anything from the US gov a "get out of jail free card" in Cuba. More like an "and excuse to extort money from you and get 'questioned'" card. I would not flash any US gov docs there unless I was in a very serious situation.

What is best is to have someone Cuban, preferably in the party, and the higher the better on your side. Try to arrange this before you get there. If that is not possible, try to make friends while you are there (everyone knows who has rank in the party).

Not trying to tell you what to shoot, but I personally would not take chances on shooting political material there - as you could get yourself and anyone on your tape in a lot of trouble. Also, don't even think of shooting any of the more "base" formats of video there. You could get into very serious trouble.

As I said above, it's pretty hard to run afoul of the authorities there - but if you do, there's no lawyer to call, no right to privacy, and they don't ask permission to watch your tapes.
Andrew Buchanan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 11th, 2008, 10:21 AM   #12
New Boot
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Birmingham, AL
Posts: 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Buchanan View Post

David, I'd be cautious of calling anything from the US gov a "get out of jail free card" in Cuba. More like an "and excuse to extort money from you and get 'questioned'" card. I would not flash any US gov docs there unless I was in a very serious situation.
Oh no, it wasn't for Cuban officials - it was to avoid hassle to get back into the US.

We were on a direct charter out of Miami, so when we came back there was no doubt about where we'd been. The State Department approval eased the questioning with US Customs. There are very specific and stringent requirements for church groups from the US visiting Cuba. Those requirements are imposed by the US. One of which is you have to be invited by a recognized Cuban church and the State Department has to approve the trip. Thus the letters.

We knew quite well going in, that the church there is tolerated as long as they make no trouble for the government. So we knew our contacts had no influence with the officials. But, as I said before, once we arrived we had no hassles from the Cuban authorities. They were only interested that we we not bringing in anything that could be sold on the black market.

I'll say again though, we kept to the purpose of our trip and my filming was very low key. And like you said, Andrew, no political material - in our interviews, it was about the resurgence of church life there. There were a few people we became friends with that were not afraid to have some political discussions, but that was off camera for their protection and ours.
Dave Vaughn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 12th, 2008, 02:16 PM   #13
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Medellin, Colombia
Posts: 199
I'm actually going to film for an international Christian organisation, cooperating with local churches. Do you think I should bring with me any kind of recommendation letter?
Urban Skargren is offline   Reply With Quote
Old September 12th, 2008, 08:05 PM   #14
New Boot
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Birmingham, AL
Posts: 23
Urban,

I'm sorry, I don't have a good answer for you.

I think I remember some of our group being asked for the letter that was sent to us from the Cuban bishop, inviting us to come and visit. But I don't remember it being specifically scrutinized. I don't remember being asked for the State Department letter we had.

I would say, if you have correspondence from one of the Cuban churches, inviting or requesting you or your group visit, it couldn't hurt to have that with you.

We may have been looked at a bit more closely than visitors from other countries, being from the US. But again, we weren't treated rudely or harassed in any way.

Still, keep politics out of whatever you do and keep a low profile. If in doubt about any rules - ask before acting. You might not be able to plead ignorance later.

We were advised not to film government buildings, military facilities or personnel. Filming in public places is generally permitted, if in doubt ask. Basically, don't film anything that you think party officials would frown on.

Having said that, in the church services, you can film all you want. In fact, one of the churches we visited had a video guy of their own with an old 8 mm camcorder, making tapes for the church. Depending on the denomination, the services can get quite lively.

I'm glad to see other organizations working with Cuban churches. There are amazing things going on there. I won't elaborate so I don't spoil any of it for you. But I think you're in for an eye-opening experience on many levels.

Good luck and safe journey.
Dave Vaughn is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Most Recent Additions... > Home, Away From Home

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:59 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network