Finding her curious, expressive nature stunted by the artistic environment in her native Cuba, multi-award winning dancer and choreographer Maura Morales fled the country at the age of 17 to pursue her craft unencumbered in Europe. Capturing her return to Cuba with husband and creative partner Michio Woigardt, Grosse 8 Directors Manfred Borsch (last seen on DN here) and Jacqueline Hochmuth’s hybrid documentary dance film follows Maura as she explores her own history, the concept of home as well as the current socio-cultural situation in her former homeland. Below Michio and Jacqueline tell us how they overcame limited shooting time and last minute arrangements to create this reflective contemplation of love, art and home.

At first, there was no real concept, only the idea to create a portrait of Maura in her native Cuba. Maura & Michio (Cooperativa Maura Morales) wanted to work on her new piece in Cuba, which works up the past and memories of Maura in her home country.

The idea to fly to Cuba was nevertheless very, very last minute. Two weeks before departure the idea arose and we had to act quickly to make all the necessary preparations. Much was uncertain, except for our meeting with Maura & Michio on site. The other parameters; such as locations and timings on site were very daring. Added to this was the time factor in Cuba. We only had 5 days with Maura & Michio in their hometown Camagüey and an additional 3 days B-Role shooting in Havana.

Shortly before departure, we got a message from Maura who told us she was sick and needed to get better first. So everything was hanging on a very thin thread before we even started our journey. On our first day in Camagüey we tried to shoot with Maura directly and fix timing for the locations at the same time. Both proved to be very difficult. Maura was a stranger and probably a little uncomfortable letting someone with a camera so close to her.

Faster visual thinking was the order of the day.

On the first evening we had to completely upend our portrait idea again and decided to let Maura dance her story and emotions in the respective contrasting environment. Thus, our version of the dance documentary was created and in various chapters of the film she examines her own identity in relation to Cuba.

An important aspect of the audiovisual composition was the constant change from documentary style to dance and back. Hence the rather short chapters and the almost continuous use of music (Michio) or sound design, coupled with Maura’s voice as an intimate, very personal element of real and interpreted soundscapes.

The following days were full of work,but we had found a common thread that we could work on piece by piece. Nevertheless, many things happened spontaneously on the same day. Because of the necessary spontaneity of Maura & Michio one could act very fast. Meaning in plain language that as soon as we found a location (inside or outside) we would head in ‘run and gun style’ directly and film. What will probably puzzle many filmmakers is that we shot the whole documentary with a Sony Alpha 7S II. We chose this camera so that we could be as flexible as possible and travel with small luggage.

The dance is an expression of itself devised in isolation from the surroundings. Nevertheless, everything had to fit within the situation as there was usually only one attempt to record the scene. This was due to the short time, the incredible heat and the associated hardships for Maura as a dancer. Faster visual thinking was the order of the day.

Our final days in Havana were almost pure relaxation after this experience: Havana, the city of contrasts, the beautiful and the broken, always under construction.

This film is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

Leave a Reply