Cuba comes to life at Denver museum

IMAX film among highlights of exhibit


“Cuba 2D” and “Cuba in Denver” offer a most inviting look at a rather near neighbor — but just for a short while longer.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science exhibit, organized by the American Museum of Natural History, is on the third floor and included in admission to the museum. Walk into a sunny plaza, with tobacco shop, a look at Santeria, the African-based religion, drums — with several for visitors to try out, plus a constant background rhythm — an ancient means of communication.

Centered in the suggestion of a plaza: graceful white iron table and chairs, plus a pristine blue and white 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air — like the vintage cars that Cubans keep polished and running down colonial streets — as taxis and for personal use.

Take a few minutes to watch the short film near the exhibit entrance for a fill-in on history of this island. Because Cuba was cut off from travel by Americans for a number of years, one would assume this bit of history hasn’t been part of school curriculum. Now that it’s a popular tourist destination for Americans (and has been for years for Europeans), one will want to learn more.

The IMAX film, “Cuba,” which just opened and will run until Jan. 23, before it opens wide across the country, is just a beautiful presentation, directed by Peter Chang, who obviously fell in love with Cuba.

It begins with an aerial view of Old Havana, then zeroes in on city scenes, with colonial buildings, those legendary 1950s automobiles and music and dance ...

Then a viewer is transported over lush, green, uninhabited terrain, wide ocean sunsets and lovely underwater shots of coral reefs, brilliant fish in many colors and exotic plants waving in the currents. Absolutely stunning!

A side note is a study by scientists showing that the reef is thriving there, while others are dying worldwide, because farmers were too poor to use chemical fertilizers, which drain into the seas, adding too much nitrogen. Even though things have improved, organic farming is widely practiced and the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables is appealing and available.

Chang finds people of all ages dancing — in the streets, in plazas, at the beach ...

He introduces internationally recognized Havana City Historian Eusabio Leal, who many years ago convinced Fidel Castro to let him have a small area in the old city to restore. It included a hotel where Hemingway wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and other buildings he turned into restaurants and attractions ( I got carried away with his accomplishments — he rescued thousands of landmarks!)

The film focuses on his restoration of the Teatro Nacional, where Cuba’s acclaimed ballet company performs, but a bit of reading tells of acres of restored colonial buildings that have made Old Havana a UNICEF World Heritage Site.

Chang introduces a nice close-up by following 17-year-old ballerina Patricia Torres, who travels into the city daily to study dance at the Teatro Nacional. In a few weeks, will be a big contest in the old theater that will determine her future — professional dancer or not??

One learns that ancient coral reefs turned into limestone, the building material for handsome cathedrals and large government buildings.

And there are looks at the major crops: tobacco and sugar ...

And back to the underwater scenes again ...

As I left the theater, a man behind me was talking to his companion about his next vacation ...

Watch for the film around town if you can’t get to the DMNS before Jan. 23.


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