VANESSA ARRINGTON | Associated Press
Cuban-American filmmaker Luis Moro expressed his disdain for the long-standing U.S. trade and travel restrictions against Cuba in a very public way: he made a movie there.
Moro’s “Love and Suicide” was showing until Thursday in East New York, New Jersey, after screenings last year in Los Angeles, Miami Beach and the Bahamas.
It’s linked to a personal crusade against the U.S. embargo and it led U.S. officials to investigate Moro for possible violation of U.S. laws that make it almost impossible for most Americans to legally visit communist Cuba.
If officials act against him, Moro says he will refuse to pay any fines, even if it means jail time.
“It’s a farce - the embargo has not worked, and it is not going to work,” Moro said of the policy imposed since the early 1960s. “I’m committed to fighting this to the end.”
Moro, who left Cuba with his mother at the age of 5, says his campaign doesn’t mean he favors the Cuban government or its leader Fidel Castro.
“I’m not pro-Castro. I’m anti-embargo,” he said by telephone from Los Angeles.
A writer, actor and producer, Moro attended a film festival in Havana in December 2003 and took the opportunity to shoot “Love and Suicide,” which was filmed by director Lisa France with a small digital camera.
Days after the movie was shown at the American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach in July, the U.S. Treasury Department notified Moro his trip to Cuba was being investigated.
Moro said he refused the department’s request for details about his travels, saying he has the right to travel freely.
The department can impose fines of up to $65,000 for Americans traveling to Cuba without a special license. Typical fines for first-time violators are about $7,500, Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said.
While U.S. law let Cuban-Americans like Moro visit the island without a special permit until 2004, it authorized family visits - not filmmaking.
Millerwise declined to comment on Moro, saying policy doesn’t allow discussion of individual cases.
Moro said ordinary Cubans on the island suffer most from the sanctions, which were tightened in 2004. The number of U.S. visitors, including those of Cuban origin, slipped to about 108,000 last year from about 200,000 in 2003, according to a Cuban government report, which did not say how many were considered legal by U.S. authorities.
The strongest backers of the embargo have been Cubans who fled the country after the Castro-led revolution came to power in 1959, often losing their property. Moro says it’s time to move on.
The exiles “will never get their land back,” he said. “Just like the Seminole Indians won’t get Florida back, and Texas won’t be returned to Mexico.”
“How many generations, how many families, have been ruined because of personal vendettas?” he asked.
The themes of forgiveness and moving beyond bitterness pepper “Love and Suicide.” Kamar de los Reyes plays a New Yorker on the verge of killing himself when he travels to Cuba and confronts his roots.
A Cuban taxi driver, played by Moro, shows him the city, helping him find love and some inner peace.
The movie shows sweeping vistas of the Cuban capital - the famous Malecon seawall, bustling tourist markets, the winding, picturesque streets of the old city - some with a personal touch.
When de los Reyes’character visits his father’s crumbling home in central Havana, it really is the former house of the actor’s Cuban father.
Moro says that if “Love and Suicide” is shown in upcoming Havana film festivals, he’ll be back.
Without a U.S. license.
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