THE MAN BEHIND VISUALTRAVELING GOES TO CUBA
──PATRIK WALLNER (ENGLISH)
Interview by VHSMAG Photo by Tobias Ulbrich
VHSMAG（V）： How did this Cuban Fidelity video come about?
PATRIK WALLNER（P）： With the Visualtraveling project I have been trying hard to discover skateboarding amongst ex-soviet or communistic regimes and Cuba was on the horizon and on the list for an upcoming trip. Michael Mackrodt was the main instigator who has been there before and wanted to return to film a Fishing Lines. Instead of doing an independent trip, we joined forces with Red Bull and decided to do a clip alongside Walker Ryan featuring various cities on this beautiful Caribbean Island.
V： How did you come up with the title Cuban Fidelity?
P： We were playing with the pun, since the word fidelity means faithful and loyal we loved it since Fidel Castro is one of the main figures still in control of Cuba and also the spark for the Revolution in the late 1950s.
V： You've been traveling mostly the Asian & Middle Eastern countries; why did you pick Cuba this time?
P： I have a greater goal for the Eurasian peninsula that is correct, but it feels nice to get a bit of a break of consistency and widen the curiosity to a different part of the world. The other main reason was that Cuba is on the verge of changing to a more capitalistic oriented country, so we wanted to make sure to go as soon as possible before Raul Castro (Fidel's brother) opens the borders and loosens the laws much more.
V： Any crazy things happen during the shoot in Cuba?
P： Just being in Cuba is a big crazy. You feel like you just exited a time machine and now are stuck in the late mid 1900s. The cars are all still from pre revolutionary times and instead of adverts you are surrounded by propaganda hailing Che Guevara, Camilio Cienfuegos and other political leaders. We got warned of many sketchy situations what foreigners should watch out for, but in the end if you have street smarts and are lucky in a way you can avoid any scary confrontations. I was mainly worried about my equipment getting stolen from the rental van, but we always hired people to watch the car while it was out of sight. Since there were no ATM machines, we have all our money on us the entire time, that was pretty annoying since if we get robbed, we were screwed big time.
V： How does shoots in various countries go down? I mean, you don't exactly know if the place is sketchy or not; there must be some kind of rule you have keep in mind in each countries. How do you manage all that? Do you have locals help out on each trip?
P： No help from locals on this trip. Kind of just go into the unknown and hope nothing happens. I did insure my stuff before flying over there just in case. Just talk to local people and figure out what is prohibited and what you should watch out for and just hope that nothing happens. Sometimes its scary especially in countries where crime is high, but you just have to keep a cool face and like said before have a bit of street smarts and it should be fine.
V： What's the best thing about traveling the world with a skateboard and a camera?
P： You are constantly on four wheels. Much more fun than walking. And the best part about having a camera is just being able to document the funny stuff one bumps into while being on the road and show it to friends later.
V： There must be some touching moments in each trip. Was there any on this Cuba trip?
P： Just witnessing and talking to people of a nation where doctor make with no exaggeration 20 USD a month, one really realizes how lucky we are to be able to travel and explore freely with the job that I have, while Cubans were not even allowed to leave the island until 2011. Now, Raul Castro has allowed people to leave if they can pay some money to the government, also to open up private business and actually buy and own cars and apartments. All of that was absolutely illegal just three years ago and dating back all the way till 1959. You just get the goose bumps talking to regular people and hearing their stories. I try to always tell myself how lucky I am and you should too all you readers out there in Japan, being able to live in a country which is pretty democratic, with freedom of speech to a certain extend, middle class widely spread along the social structure and having the aromatic Japanese cuisine accessible makes Japan in my eyes a really lucky country. The food in Cuba was absolutely horrible. Since the country has sanctions with the USA it is in lack with many products and resources. Don't go to Cuba for the food. The reason why I left Cuba early was because of the food.
V： What do you want to show and tell through your work?
P： A good time on a wooden board maybe in places where it’s not really assessable.
V： What's next for you?
P： Various projects in Europe and Madagascar in the fall. Stayed tuned Japan. Thanks for the support VHSMAG, Slider Magazine, FTC and all the friends. I hope I get more opportunities to work with the Japanese skate scene.
Born in Germany, resides in Shanghai / Bangkok. A cinematographer who documents skateboarding in Asian / Middle East countries such as North Korea and Afghanistan. His works include 10,000 Kilometers, Mandalay Express, Meet the Stans, Kansai Banzai, The Taipei
Ducks Tour, etc.