Coming across a neat old car in Cuba is always a pleasure. But getting to see a rare, auto-related artifact from Cuba – one that I feared might never surface – is a singular delight.
I had heard about this Canadian-produced commercial years ago. Filmed in Havana, it was meant to show how Cubans treasure their long-serving Chevrolets. Durability, value, the bond between vehicle and owner – it's hard to imagine a better set of feel-good messages that could be captured in a 60-second spot.
Back in Canada, however, problems emerged. First, the story went, concerns were expressed about the thickly accented English of the lead actor and narrator. A decision was made to re-record the audio with the voice of a different actor.
Perhaps there was dissatisfaction with the dubbing. Perhaps – and this would seem more likely – there were second thoughts about airing a commercial that would inevitably be seen by Americans, and that could offend a nation so long at odds with the politics and policies of the Cuban government.
Or perhaps, given those sensibilities, the commercial was never meant for general broadcast. Perhaps it was intended only as an advertising agency's in-house project, a showcase for its ability to understand and convey the image its client wanted to present to the world.
The commercial was never seen in public.
A copy has appeared on YouTube, and it's as sweet as helado de coco. Our actor portrays a courtly taxi driver piloting a 1957 Bel Air Sport Sedan through the streets of the old city. To a backdrop of music and dance and the other rhythms of Havana life, the cabbie transports a fisherman, a man with a rooster, a flamenco troupe. The long life of Cuba's Chevies, he explains, is a testament to both human ingenuity and "the way Chevrolet builds these cars – then, and now."
For a commercial starring 50-year-old vehicles, just one aspect seems dated: the "For All Life's Road's" tagline that was the theme of a Canadian campaign when it was shot. But that of course, speaks to the pace of life here and not in Cuba, where song and dance and '57 Bel Airs endure.
You'll enjoy this.