Canadian Producer Brings the Story of the “Idealism and Altruism” of Cuba’s “Five Spies” to the Big Screen

After denying for three years that the five spies were Cuban agents, in 2001 the Cuban Government acknowledged its control over the Wasp Network and led an international campaign for their liberation. (Juventud Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, 12 September 2018 — The story of the five Cuban spies sentenced to prison in the United States will arrive on the big screen very soon, and twice.

A year after learning that the Frenchman Olivier Assayas had adapted Brazilian writer Fernando Morais’ book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, the Canadian Pictou Twist Pictures and Picture Plant have partnered with the state-run Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) to bring Los Cinco (The Five) to movie theaters. The film will narrate an “inspiring story of idealism and altruism,” according to Terry Greenlaw, one of the producers, speaking to Variety magazine.

“The Five handed over the rights to their story to the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), and Pictou Twist, Picture Plant and Conquering Lion Pictures acquired them,” a spokeswoman for those producers said in a statement to 14ymedio.

The same source told this newspaper that none of the five spies living in Cuba will receive payments for the rights. After their return to the Island (three of them after being pardoned by former President Barack Obama in 2014), the spies became government officials and members of the National Assembly.

In 2014, Obama exchanged the three agents, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder, for a US intelligence officer imprisoned on the island. The gesture was accompanied by the restoration of relations between the two countries.

The Cuban-Canadian co-production, with a budget of more than seven million dollars, was inspired by the book What Lies Across the Water: The Real Story of The Cuban Five, by Canadian journalist Stephen Kimber. The film will be shot mainly in Cuba, but also in Colombia and Miami, and production will be finished next year.

Kimber, a fierce defender of the innocence of the five spies, wrote the book after a trip to Havana where a Cuban friend told him that “nothing will change between the United States and Cuba until they solve the problem of ‘The Five’.”

The journalist traveled to Miami, Washington and Havana to gather information about the spies. He also began to meet with them in prison and participated in meetings and conferences in favor of the freedom of the five spies in the United States.

“Receiving Stephen’s letters in prison in 2010 was encouraging for us because we knew he would tell our truth, which we believe he has done through his book,” says René González, one of the five spies.

“We believe that Stephen’s is the best book about The Five, Canadians have become our great friends and we can not think of better partners to help share our history, through cinema, with the world,” he added.

In Miami, however, the reactions to the movie have not been as warm. Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, president of the Democratic Directorate, a group of anti-Castro organizations, said it was “an infamy.”

“You can not rewrite history that way, the real heroes were the four boys they helped to kill,” Gutierrez said in reference to the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots killed by the Cuban military as they patrolled international waters to rescue Cuban rafters.

“You have to read the transcripts of these individuals with their bosses in Havana to realize that there is nothing heroic about them, they are terrorists, of course, and the objective of that group was to commit violent actions against nonviolent opponents of that regime,” adds Gutiérrez Boronat, who was a part of the Cubans in exile who were under surveillance by Cuban intelligence agents.

The second film dedicated to the five spies will be called Wasp Network and will be directed by the Frenchman Olivier Assayas. The film will feature the performances of the renowned artists Gael García Bernal and Penélope Cruz.

Morais, a journalist and author of the book on which the film is based, investigated the case of the five Cuban spies and published his book in 2012. From the beginning he tried to show an independent perspective of Havana that included not only ‘The Five’ but also to other nine characters of the Wasp Network who collaborated in the United States and some of whom fled to the Island.

Morais has complained that his relationship with the government was not fluid and that he was not always able to interview or access the people he needed for his book.

However, in 2013, surrounded by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, then president of Brazil and a close ally of Havana, and Armando Hart and Ricardo Alarcón, Morais presented a translation of his book in Spanish at the Third International Conference for the Balance of the World, a kind of gathering of the internation left in Cuba. At that time, Morais said he hoped to “celebrate the return of The Five to Havana soon.”

“The trial against the spies lasted several months with an irrefutable amount of evidence,” said Mario de la Peña, father of the pilot of the same name who died after the downing of his plane in international waters. “They try to justify sending the spies because they supposedly protected them from violent actions on the part of the exile,” he said.

“Those spies tried to infiltrate American bases and penetrate peaceful organizations of the exile whose only sin was to be against the Castro brothers’ regime,” he added.

“Gerardo Hernández and the others were convicted not only for espionage, but for conspiracy to commit murder. They can write whatever they want now, but the evidence that they are murderers is there,” said De la Peña.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.