UNION CITY — “Going…Going…Gone: The Grandeur of Golden-Age Cuba,” a film by fashion designer and former St. Croix Senator Wayne James, premiered at New Jersey’s prestigious Musto Cultural Center.
The public screening of the three-part docufilm was officially hosted by Union City’s mayor Brian P. Stack and the city’s Board of Commissioners. Union City is the oldest Cuban enclave in the United States, dating back to the late 1940s, and today boasts one of the nation’s largest urban Cuban populations, second only to Miami.
Links to the film have been uploaded onto YouTube and are accessible, free of charge, to viewers around the world. A cocktail reception and screening are being planned for Miami.
“The Union City leadership and community at large have welcomed me and the film with open arms,” James said. “They immediately recognized the film’s timeliness, relevance, and power. I have been treated to a classic display of Cuban hospitality.”
A prototype of the emerging “quiltography” genre—films skillfully and artistically pieced-together, quiltlike, from already-existing footage for the purpose of telling a new story—Going…Going…Gone is a gripping, emotionally charged oeuvre about Cuba’s journey from its late-19th-century title of “The Pearl of the Caribbean,” to Castro-era “Bastion of Communism,” to 21st-century “Battleground for Democracy.”
The film’s raison d’être is the display of James’ exceedingly rare collection of more than 500 self-captioned photos of golden-age Cuba, dating from about 1890-1925, taken by the Henry Clay and Bock & Co., Ltd., Havana-based cigar company as picture-album keepsakes for the company’s preferred customers.
Beginning in the mid-1920s, James’ maternal great-uncle, musician and sugarcane laborer Alexander Messer, born on St. Croix in 1888 to Christian Messer (1859-1927) and Andrina Prince Messer (1865-1941), would enclose the photos in his letters home to his parents and siblings on St. Croix. (Alexander migrated to Cuba in 1918 at the age of 29, settling in Santiago de Cuba, after having lived abroad in the Dominican Republic from 1908. Alexander’s younger brother, Richard Messer, born in 1893, migrated to Cubu