The feature film ‘Wasp Network’ by French director Olivier Assayas, has just been released this week on the US streaming service Netflix. This is an extraordinary event. The film tells the story of the five Cuban spies, known as the Cuban Five or Miami Five, wrongly imprisoned in the United States for 16 years while they were investigating US based terrorist groups who threatened Cuba. In April 2019 Dayron Rodríguez Rosales for CubaCine website interviewed the film director Olivier Assayas when he had just finished the final scenes in Havana. Assayas was grateful to ICAIC (Cuba’s national film institute) for enabling the filming in Cuba to take place. The Hollywood film was shown at the Havana film festival in December 2019 and has been condemned by rightwing Cuban Americans for “glorifying” the Five.
How did you come to this subject so important to Cuba, framed within the historical conflict between our country and the United States? Why did you decide to tell this story?
To be honest I had never heard of the Cuban Five until Rodrigo Teixeira invited my producer to read the book by Brazilian journalist Fernando Morais, ‘The Last Soldiers of the Cold War’. My producer found it interesting and encouraged me to read it. This happened three or four years ago.
It was a challenge for us to turn the text into a film script, because as it was written by a journalist it was packed with facts, but didn’t have an easy narrative to convert into images. However, I wanted to try it with ‘Wasp Network’, as although it is a very famous story in Cuba and Florida, it is unknown to most people in the rest of the world.
Furthermore, it is a fascinating story with strong characters that every director would like to have at their fingertips. That is why I did my research and tried to construct, in a simple way, the narration of such events, while continuing to address essential historical questions.
I think relations between Cuba and the US have been difficult for more than 60 years and have been full of barriers that have made Cuban life more complex, such as the blockade. But history should not be seen in terms of who is right or who is wrong, but must be told from the truth and with great precision.
How much does the script of the film stick to the book that it originated from?
I used Morais’s research extensively to describe my characters and their actions, but it was necessary to condense the valuable and extensive narrative material that I had.
Who are the actors who played the Cuban Five? Why them?
My original approach was to use only Cuban actors for the main roles, since they know the history of the Cuban Five better than anyone. However, the film is complicated, expensive, a big production, and I had to go to actors with experience in this type of film. For this reason, I chose popular Latin stars who worked very hard to learn the Cuban accent, since it is a film in Spanish.
Venezuelan Edgar Ramírez played René (Gonzalez); Penelope Cruz played Olga Salanueva, his wife; Gael García Bernal is Gerardo (Hernandez). We also have the performance of Wagner Moura.
Also, the Argentinian Leonardo Sparaglia and Cuban Ana de Armas, who has developed a remarkable career in Hollywood for some time, joined the cast. Cuban actors René de la Cruz, Iris Pérez and Omar Alí also take part in the film, and we had an extensive production team from the island.
How was the rest of the ‘Wasp Network’ team conceived?
The plan was always to shoot most of the scenes in Cuba, since it is not easy to find the landscapes of this island elsewhere, nor to recreate them. However, we travelled to Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, Uruguay and we also filmed in the Canary Islands.
Filming in Cuba was great and the best part of filming here was the personnel. I found efficient professionals who mixed very well with the French team that accompanied me, that is, the French and Cubans worked closely together in the filming of the film.
Watch the trailer for the film