Bill and Carolyne
Sheets swim at Marina Hemingway with their Cuban friends, Raisa
and her daughter, Gabriel, and Idolka and her son, David.
A BRIDGE TO CUBA
HOW WUFT-TV PRODUCED THE DOCUMENTARY
A Cuban patrol boat checks out sailboats docked
at Marina Hemingway.
VIEWER COMMENTS ON
A BRIDGE TO CUBA:
"I thoroughly enjoyed the piece last night. The
moments of raw human emotion were
enjoyed your documentary on Cuba. I thought it was first-rate. I sat
with rapt attention through the whole thing,
being someone interested in Cuba
and sailing. It was a great documentary."
"...an excellent presentation."
Returning from Havana
in 1994 the crew of Four Sheets to the Wind comes across a small boat
with seven Cuban refugees 25 miles from Key West. The crew
stayed at the scene until the Coast Guard came to take them to the
refugee center. The refugees had lost others at sea in their three-day
journey, but they too were rescued.
Politics have kept the American and Cuban people
apart for more than four decades. But now a love of the sea and
compassion for those in need is changing that. While the nations’
governments continue to fight the Cold War, a sailing couple, along
with members of their crew, are building a bridge of friendship to
several Cuban families.
They made four voyages from Florida to
the island nation since 1994. After their first visit to Cuba they
began helping a mother (who had a five-year-old son) reunite with her
husband. He had fled Cuba on a raft just a few months before the
A Bridge to Cuba
is an epic story of Cuban and United States citizens building
friendships despite the odds stacked against them by their
governments. It is a story of a Cuban doctor searching for freedom,
only to be separated from his wife and son for years in that quest.
And it’s a story of how Americans helped to bring that family together
A Bridge to Cuba producer, G. Stuart Smith sails off Havana's Malecon with Bill and Carolyne Sheets.
A Bridge to
Cuba visually builds on the
excitement of sailboats racing across the sea, but allows natural
sound in intimate and group settings to reveal how people can create
friendships despite their governments being avowed enemies.
Besides showing the developing
friendships, the documentary also shows the seamier side of Cuba – the
poverty and repression. It also weaves in some significant historical
events going back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. A Bridge to Cuba
features some Cuban exiles who oppose Americans sailing to Cuba –
but most certainly, the documentary’s point of view is that the
Americans and Cubans are building friendships unheard of during this
continuing Cold War conflict.
Producer G. Stuart
Smith with Idolka and David Diego near Havana in 1998. The
mother and son were reunited with Idolka's husband, Jesus,
Thanksgiving weekend 2000.
As a reporter for a TV station in Fort
Myers, G. Stuart Smith went along as crew with a camera on the 1994
race to Cuba – the first since Fidel Castro took power. He sailed
with the captain of “Four Sheets to the Wind,” Bill Sheets. That
ended in a five-part series on the NBC affiliate, WBBH-TV. That race
also turned into an eye-opening experience for Bill
and his wife, Carolyne. They went back to Cuba three times on
“Four Sheets to the Wind.”
became news director at WUFT-TV, the PBS affiliate in Gainesville, he
saw the friendships were still developing and returned to Cuba with
the Sheets in 1996 and 1998 to tell the unfolding story. He had been
bound by a commitment not to use an interview with
Idolka Diego and her son until they arrived with her husband,
Jesus, in the United States. They were reunited in November 2000 – so
after six long years, the story can finally be told.
A BRIDGE TO CUBA
Society of Professional
Journalists, Green Eyeshade Award, TV
markets 101 and over
Sunshine State Awards, Society of
Professional Journalists, South Florida Pro Chapter
Third Place, Best Public Affairs Program
AMERICAN PUBLIC TELEVISION STATIONS
A BRIDGE TO CUBA
Palm Beach, FL