By Michael Aushenker
For the past five years, it’s been a monthly tradition: Meet at Izzy’s Deli, the venerable home of Judith’s Mish Mash, on Wilshire and 15th, then repair to the Santa Monica home of Rachel Sene and Jay Johnson for a Cuban-connected narrative film or documentary.
This month will be no different. On Saturday, the club Films4Cuban5 presents “Afro-Cuban Legends,” a documentary glimpse at the golden age of Havana in which bandleader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez leads an all-star procession of some of Cuba’s greatest musicians, including Ibrahim Ferrer, Pio Leyva and Ruben Gonzalez, in performances at Havana’s Salon of Dreams.
Films4Cuban5 began as part of the Greater Los Angeles Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba. The kaffeeklatsch group attracts about 35 people per screening and touches on both the cultural and political aspects of Cuba.
Most of the attendees are not of Cuban heritage but have an interest in experiencing a taste of Cuban culture.
The monthly gathering is “a mixture of progressive people,” Sene said. “We discuss the film and relax with coffee. It’s a social with a Cuban theme.”
But for Sene, a Cuban-American who has family in Cuba, the club’s mission is personal.
“The Cuban 5 are my heroes,” she said.
The Cuban 5 were arrested in 1998 in Miami and convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and other crimes, convictions that were struck down by an appeals court but later reinstated.
A suggested $5 donation for the evening covers Cuban-style coffee and gourmet cookies, with remaining proceeds going to the defense of The Cuban 5.
Past screening by Films4Cuban5 have included a mix of narrative and documentary films, such as “Havana Station,” “Maestra,” “Habana Eva,” “Marti: The Eye of the Canary” and one of Sene’s favorites, “Portrait of Teresa.”
At “Alta Habana,” a residence on the corner of Alta and 9th Street, Sene hopes her gatherings will “educate the people about the Cuban 5 and support for the Cuban 5.” However, the purpose of the monthly meetings, Sene insisted, is not to exclusively discuss politics but to enjoy the programming.
Films4Cuban5 meets 5:30 p.m. at Izzy’s Deli, 1433 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. “Afro-Cuban Legends” screens at 7 p.m. To R.S.V.P., call (310) 780-7363 or email RachelJay@earthlink.net.
Havana Can’t Wait: An informal club meets monthly in Santa Monica to dine at Izzy’s and screen Cuban-themed cinema at a private residence.
By Michael Aushenker