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Jose Enrique Pardo tells the Cuban-American exile story in 'Cubamerican'

“Cubamerican” is a revealing documentary about how the Cuban Revolution changed everything for Cuban families as family members were forced to leave their home country for America in order to live their lives freely as they chose to live them. Since premiering last year in 2013 at the Cinequest Film Festival and the Miami International Film Festival, the film has had a phenomenal run as it was shown in different cities around America including San Francisco, Seattle, New Jersey and Washington DC. Examiner.com had the chance to sit down and interview the film’s director, Jose Enrique Pardo, as he talked about a variety of topics including what inspired him to make the movie and which American city surprised him the most in terms of receiving a great reaction.

Jose Enrique Pardo tells the story about the Cuban-American exile in "Cubamerican."
Cubamerican.com

What inspired you to make this documentary in the first place?

Jose Enrique Pardo: The death of my dad was the first thing that spurred me on because he represented all things Cuban to me. It spurred me to help try to find my roots and I always wanted to make a film. It seemed like the natural vehicle to do it. I also wanted to leave something behind for future generations. I think the story has not been told before and nobody told the story quite like this. We haven’t told our own story. Our story have been mythologized and falsely interrupted by Hollywood. We have really told our own story with a Cuban-American making a movie about the Cuban-American exile with Cuban-American characters. It hasn’t been done before.

Do you hope that this film would be the first step in influencing other filmmakers to tell more stories like this?

Pardo: My goal is humbler then that. My goal is that Cuban-Americans connect with their history and their culture. Sociologically, the root ethnicity of the third generation is gone and it is totally assimilated into the American culture. The film is a tool that is use to allow Cuban-Americans, children of Cuban-Americans and future generations to connect with their roots and to connect with what they parents and their forefathers did in order to bring them to freedom.

Usually, documentary filmmakers find that access is always the most difficult thing about making the documentary. Was this the case when you were making “Cubamerican” or was it something else?

Pardo: For me, the most challenging problem was funding. We were given access to people that I selected to be interviewed. There were very few that refused to participate. For the most part, the people I approached were happy to participate because they saw the value of the project and they were passionate about it. The funding was the most difficult thing because a film costs money to make. You have to have a team, years and different specialties in order to do it.

How did it feel to have your movie become a hit here in South Florida and all over the country?

Pardo: It’s been very rewarding seeing people in theater applauding and having a sort of an emotional catharsis. It is also nice to bring the community together. We have five sold-out shows in L.A. L.A. is a town so spread out, but certain people came back together because of this movie. There were people who haven’t seen each other for years and they were galvanized by the event of the film. It was very rewarding to me to see that I touched hearts and brought the community back together in some ways.

When you took this movie around the country, which city was the one that took you by surprise in terms of getting a good reaction from your film?

Pardo: Interestingly enough, it had to be the last city we played it in, which was Las Vegas. There was a cultural Cuban group that got behind the film. They pretty much did all the groundwork for us, we showed up with it and we got three standing ovations from 120 people in the audience. Las Vegas was a surprise, but it has been great all over the country whether it was Chicago or New York, which was the city I grew up in.

Do you find the message in your movie reaching beyond Cuban-Americans and to other different nationalities?

Pardo: It can be embrace by all nationalities. There are several points in the movie. One is that the film is a pro-immigration story. This is a story about political exiles who were banished by their country, left their country with the shirts on their back and then came to the United States and were given the freedom to realize the American Dream. That is what this film is about. That has other to other ethnicities as well. We are not the only ones who have done that. It is pro-immigrant message that repeats itself. Additionally, I think the film says that if you don’t have freedom, which is still happening today in Cuba, you can’t achieve anything in your life. Conversely, with freedom, you have the power to achieve anything you want. That’s another message that the film hammers home. I’ve have Iranians, Jews, Russians and all different kind of ethnicities come up to say that this is their story as well. Armenians in L.A., some who were subjected to genocide and have suffered the same kind of fate we did like banishment, totally related to the movie.

“Cubamerican” airs on WPBT2 on Thursday, September 4, at 8pm. For more information on the film, visit cubamericanthemovie.com.