We’ve seen racing movies before, it’s something that this country is fascinated with. The roar of the engines, the car accelerating in a blur, it’s an unmistakable passion that burns within those involved. What we tend to forget, however, is that some places don’t have the acceptance of the sport as most. Some places have to conceal the sport from the powers that be. In the new documentary Havana Motor Club, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt follows a handful of Cuban racers fighting for legitimacy of racing, the sport they love in the country they love.
From the moment the film begins, you are right in the middle of this world. The thing that many might not know is that the cars that populate Cuba, the ones being used for racing, are the American cars of the 1950s. These powerful beasts may show a sign of the atmosphere around the revolution, and the restrictions that followed, but beneath the hood holds the secret to this community. The story being told in this film is that hard work and determination, that those elements can bring something antiquated back to life.
Perlmutt allows us to meet several different racers, seeing inside their garages and their hearts to witness what brings them the most joy: racing. Sure there is the rivalry and the varied mechanic techniques, but at the bottom of everything is a brotherhood. Never during the film does the audience feel pulled to root for one family over another, that’s not what this film is about, but instead a camaraderie is formed between all.
Documentaries like these truly are fascinating. Whatever perception the audience may have on the country in question or the political environment at the forefront, nothing will ever amount to what its like for the residents. Opinions can be had, but it’s pointless to the ones living the life. The film doesn’t worry about the political atmosphere, and presents the situation without leaning to one party direction. For a documentary to take place in a place that can spark a heated political debate and address the revolution in an unbiased way, proves that Perlmutt is a brilliant story teller. This film is simply about the persistence of passion and how that will always triumph.
Havana Motor Club, at its core, is a film about determination. The racing community used to have a place in Cuban society in the 50’s, but with numerous factors at play, quickly moved to the underground. That’s not to say that the topic is hushed, the passion is still thriving, but the sporting events are done on the streets, attempting to avoid the knowledge of law enforcement.
The pride and upkeep represented by these racers to their cars is deeply felt from the audience. So when the movement begins to make racing a national sport, to bring legitimacy to the events, the audience is in the thick of this exciting journey. Before you know it, you’ve become just as invested as the racers themselves, experiencing their highs and lows as the fight for recognition carries on.
Their fight and persistence is what comes through the film the most. The passion that we feel for something, no matter what it is, is universal. The persistence to trudge through heartache and setbacks to finally see your hard work pay off is something everyone can relate to. Havana Motor Club may be about car racing in Cuba, but the sentiment felt after the credits roll goes far beyond the roar of hot rod engines.
New found knowledge of a community unknown to most plus the shared experience of emotional obsession makes Perlmutt’s documentary a must watch.
Now available on VOD platforms and select theaters.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Film Still courtesy of Prodigy Public Relations