Zeus: Communist Cuba's Legendary Heavy Metal Band

A feature doc will tell their story. Check out their Kickstarter campaign, which ends Dec. 18

By LatinoLA Contributor
Published on LatinoLA: December 16, 2013

Zeus: Communist Cuba's Legendary Heavy Metal Band

The most iconic stars in Cuba are the members of Zeus, the country's oldest heavy metal band. They've performed in Havana since the 1980s, when this American-influenced music was officially banned by the Castro government. The long-haired rockers (called "freakies") were thrown in jail and concerts were broken up by state police.

Thirty years later, rock music is tolerated, but barely. A government bureaucracy called the Agency of Rock controls Cuba's heavy metal scene. Every concert and every record must be cleared with the Agency's director of Rock. It's a sign of the changing situation in Cuba, but it's also an absurd position for the country's heavy metal musicians. To play their music, Zeus and their diehard fans must fight to be true to themselves within the confines set by the Cuban government.

"People always listen to the hardest music because it is a way of reaffirming their passion and liberty against everything that is imposed on them," says Ivan Vera, the guitarist for Zeus. "That, I believe, is the reason for heavy metal."

American filmmaker, Nicholas Brennan, has spent the past four years capturing Zeus's story and the broader history of heavy metal in Cuba in the feature-length documentary film, "Hard Rock Havana." With over 120 hours of footage filmed inside of Cuba, Brennan has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to edit the film and share this band's story.

For an inside look at the Cuba's metal scene, see the film's Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nicholasbrennan/hard-rock-havana. The campaign runs through Dec. 18, 2013.

The members of Zeus are available for interviews via Skype. Academy-award winning Executive Producer Alex Gibney, Director Nicholas Brennan and Music Advisor Dave Lombardo ("godfather of the double peddle" and former drummer for Slayer) are also available for interviews in English or Spanish, please contact Audrey Mullen (AudreyMullen@me.com) with your requested dates/times.

Please click here to read an endorsement of the project from Dave Lombardo: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dave-Lombardo/124433877627819

The Film

"Hard Rock Havana" reveals an aggressive and vocal movement shouting to be heard from the thrashing heart of communist Cuba's mosh pits. Center stage in this struggle is the country's original rock star: Diony Arce, lead singer of Zeus--the gods of Cuban metal. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers follow Diony and his band as they celebrate their 25th anniversary with their first national tour across the island. What emerges is a highly entertaining and inspirational story that tests the limits of expression in Cuba at a time of profound change both in the lives of the band and the history of the country.

Agency of Rock

When Diony started performing in the 1980s, rock and roll was forbidden. Rockers were thrown in jail and the police broke up shows. Today, the music is accepted, but it is controlled by an official Agency of Rock (Agencia Cubana de Rock). Formed in 2007, the Agency serves as the sole promoter, concert venue, recording studio, manager and distributor of all things Cuban Rock. Led by a Ministry of Culture-appointed Director of Rock, the Agency has created a space for rock bands to perform their music and gather crowds without worry of police crackdowns, but the trade off is a government system micromanaging the freedom of artists to do what they love.

Today's Cuba

Cuba remains a communist-controlled country only 90-miles off the coast of Florida, yet is largely out of reach to Americans. In 2006, long-term leader Fidel Castro, 87, began transitioning power to his brother Raul, 82. Attempting to reverse Cuba's crumbling economy, Raul has initiated a number of market reforms, but he remains dedicated to a socialist system and one-party rule. With Castro's revolutionary generation fading into history, an unknown future awaits the country.

Production Details

LEGAL: With both Cuban and U.S. governmental approval, the filmmakers have gained uniquely intimate access into the country. US permission to legally travel to and film in Cuba was secured with a license from the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control. Cuban access was secured through the logistic support of an arts NGO operating in Havana.

FINANCIAL: Principal support for the film to date has come from the Moving Picture Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting freedom through film, and a major grant from the Chris Columbus / Richard Vague Film Production Fund through NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

PROJECT HISTORY: The film began as a short documentary that premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Over the past four years, the filmmakers have spent ten months filming in Cuba. The production team is made up of independent Cuban and American artists collaborating together with a spirit of cultural exchange.

KICKSTARTER: The filmmakers launched a Kickstarter campaign on Nov. 13, 2013 to raise $30,000 in order to finish the film. The campaign concludes on December 18, 2013. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding web site where the public can contribute to projects in exchange for rewards. For online coverage, please link directly to the campaign here: http://kck.st/17pamLi

Zeus Band Members

Diony Arce - lead singer

Ivan Vera - Guitarist

Hansel Arrocha - Guitarist

Yamil Sire - Bassist

Eduardo Longa ÔÇô Drummer

About LatinoLA Contributor:
Major funding comes from the Moving Picture Institute. The Moving Picture Institute supports pro-freedom, pro-free market films. Please check out some of our past projects here: http://www.thempi.org/mpi_films.html
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