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On both sides of the 90-mile stretch of sea between Havana and the Florida Keys, speculators, hustlers and opportunists are primed for the final fall of 20th-century communism. Americans want to know where Cuba stands today as it prepares to cross over to capitalism with the rest of the world. This question is best answered through the eyes of self-made entrepreneurs - those early adopters who see dollar signs on every corner. What does Cuban Capitalism look like?

“Small Stakes - Big Breaks” is a film that will look at Cuba with fresh eyes and a sense of ironic detachment, skeptical that American capitalism is the answer that Cuba is looking for. The film project team involves: Zefrey Throwell - A NYC based artist that employs film, performance, photography and painting to orchestrate his unique perspective; Susannah Tantemsapya FRSA - RSA Connector for Los Angeles and founder of Creative Migration, an international arts NGO and Grant Slater - a Brooklyn based filmmaker, photgrapher and journalist.

It aims to instigate a conversation at this pivotal moment by approaching the question from five possible angles.

  •  The DIY, underground and ad hoc system of Cuban capitalism is shifting as the country opens up.  It will view Cuba through the eyes of jinetero street hustlers, Grandma’s selling a few wares out the windows of their homes, and chopshop mechanics welding together what is likely the last generation of Cuban classic cars.
  •  It will embed with a group of American capitalists making their way to Cuba for an “exchange” program to meet and feel out their Cuban protocapitalist counterparts.
  • It will document the inner workings of a Soviet-area apartment building that rises from the middle of nothing in the farmland west of Havana. These planned buildings are micro-economies that will certainly collapse as Cuban systems change. What is happening on each floor? What hustles keep this building alive? What will happen to those hustles as the island changes?
  •  It will focus one episode on a performance where artist Zefrey Throwell will set up an advice stand to give pointers to Cubans about capitalism. Skating the satirical line with sincerity, we will travel through Cuba on a goodwill mission to help people prep for what is to come.
  •  It will take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the important questions that face Cuba as an influx of American tourists arrive and explore the system of ‘Casa Particular’ owners who operate a homemade house sharing system similar to Airbnb and talk about what will happen when apps arrive on the island. We will also talk with owners of paladares, off-the-books restaurants, about their upcoming battle with TGI Fridays.

Exploring the hidden passages of Havana along the backstreets and behind locked gates, this film will tell the stories of those overlooked by the mass media. While the US falls all over itself talking about The Rolling Stones and Miami real estate developers swooping in for the next Puerto Rico, this film will delve into the jungles and coasts and follow their enterprising protagonists as they seek to make the most of this new environment. 

If you are interested in participating or supporting the above project or have a keen interest in the area, please contact Susannah Tantemsapya at : or via Creative Migration.


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