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Havana Motor Club


HAVANA MOTOR CLUB tells a personal, character-driven story about Cuba's vibrant community of underground drag racers and their quest to hold Cuba's first official car race since shortly after the 1959 Revolution. It tackles how Cuba's recent reforms — the owning of property, allowance of small businesses, and greater exchange between Cubans, Cuban Americans, tourists, and other foreigners — have affected the lives of these racers and their families.

One racer enlists the help of a Cuban American patron in Miami to bring in parts for his modern Porsche. His main competitor is a renowned mechanic who uses ingenuity rather than resources to create a racing machine out of his 1955 Chevy Bel Air. Another racer ponders whether he will participate in the race or sell his motor — one that he recovered on the ocean floor from a ship used to smuggle Cubans off the island — in order to flee Cuba on a raft headed to Florida. Meanwhile, the race itself is in jeopardy of coming to fruition due to factors ranging from its status as an elitist sport to the arrival of the Pope in Cuba.

Through the experiences of these racers and their community, HAVANA MOTOR CLUB explores how Cuba is changing today and what its future holds in light of Obama's recent move to normalize relations with the island nation.


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The Filmmakers

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt Director, Writer, Producer, Editor

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. He co-directed and edited DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2011). He directed and produced LUMO (POV, 2007), a documentary about the recovery process of a young rape survivor at a unique hospital in eastern Congo that won a Student Academy Award and was broadcast on PBS. He served as the co-producer and additional editor of CONTROL ROOM (Magnolia Pictures, 2004), and the associate editor of VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR (Acolyte Films, 2008). He wrote, directed, produced, and edited LES VULNERABLES (Perlmutt Productions, 2007), the closing night short of the New York Film Festival and a grand jury prize-winner at AFI Dallas. He also edited and field-produced MAN V. VOLCANO (Market Road Films, 2011) for National Geographic Explorer, and most recently edited an episode of MTV's series "REBEL MUSIC" set in Venezuela.

Perlmutt has been a correspondent for UNICEF and has made films for healthcare-related NGOs such as The Chopra Center, HelpAge International, UNICEF, UNIFEM, the New York Academy of Medicine, HelpAge, and HEAL Africa. His commercial work has included editing spots for AMC, MTV, BVLGARI, RAG&BONE, H&M, VOGUE, CHLOE, TODS, JIMMY CHOO, GUCCI, KOHL's, CARRERA, SAN PELLEGRINO, ESTÉE LAUDER, GUESS, and INTERVIEW MAGAZINE. He is a member of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Indie Film," and a recipient of a Sundance Institute / Sloan Foundation grant for his Cuba-based script ON THE LEFT. He has taught documentary filmmaking at Columbia University and all over Africa for organizations including Mira Nair's MAISHA FILMLAB and Peter Gabriel's WITNESS. Perlmutt holds a BA from Brown University with honors in Creative Writing and an MFA from Columbia University with honors in Film Directing.

Zelmira Gainza Producer, Cinematographer

Zelmira Gainza is a British/Argentine cinematographer, producer and director. She grew up in London and moved to New York to pursue filmmaking, where she graduated from NYU with an MFA in film. She recently shot OKAY BREATHE AURALEE (Sundance 2012) and BURN TO SEND (Nestor Almendros Award for Excellence in Cinematography 2012). She served as director/writer/producer on THE POOL (Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay NYU First Run Festival 2011, National Board of Review Student Award.) She has shot films in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Burma, Argentina, Vietnam, Cuba and Abu Dhabi. She is currently based in New York.


December 31, 1969

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Festivals & Awards

Tribeca Film Festival 2015

Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt takes to the roadways of Havana for a fascinating glimpse at the resilience, ingenuity, and passion of the competitive spirit. Auto racing was a Cuban tradition for decades, typified by the Cuban Grand Prix of the late '50s. Fidel Castro declared the practice elitist and outlawed racing indefinitely, yet an underground automotive pulse still beats on the island. Gearheads across Cuba scrap, scrape together, or just fabricate parts to get max speed out of their American muscle cars. Meanwhile, enthusiasts and organizers look for ways to legitimize the sport and bring the excitement of Cuban racing back to the people. 

Punctuated by a lively Cuban soundtrack, Havana Motor Club captures a nation at a crossroads. Changing international relationships and economic reforms have offered unprecedented opportunity to Cubans, but left the children of the Revolution unsure of the best route forward. For the half-dozen racers at the heart of Perlmutt’s film, this means last-minute adjustments or wholesale changes to their beloved cars, as they prepare for the first sanctioned drag race in Cuba since 1960.

—Arthur Ryel-Lindsey

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Rhode Island Film Festival 2015

Havana Film Festival 2015


Inspiring, thrilling and visually stunning, the HAVANA MOTOR CLUB is more than just a film about racing, it’s about Cuba’s divided emotions.”

-Screen Relish

HAVANA MOTOR CLUB is rich with the grease and glory of American muscle cars in Cuba...The film is enriched by Cuban music, lavish colors, and beautifully shot American(ish) muscle cars. But it’s about much more than car racing. It shows how it feels to sacrifice and strive for something uncertain—and it shows that sometimes the endeavor is more about daily devotion than the ultimate goal.”

-Bloomberg News

On the surface, HAVANA MOTOR CLUB might seem like a movie for niche audiences with an interest in drag racing. But the film is a historic document that allows viewers an opportunity to explore a nation that has maintained itself cut off in many respects from the rest of the world. Through the film, this world is opened up through its people who work every day for dreams and goals that many of us take for granted in our daily lives”

-Latin Post