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Documentary Video Production in Havana

Create, shoot and edit your own documentary film in a landscape with a rich cultural and political history.

21st century Havana is a city of contradictions — steeped in tradition but on the verge of a radical change in cultural direction. From rhumba and salsa, Revolution-era art and literature to the recent opening of American influence, Havana is a landscape that is overflowing with possibilities for documentary storytelling — and it’s yours to discover.

"Even now, years later, I still look at those three months I spent in Havana as the most inspiring and creatively fulfilling time in my life — It's a mindset I try to dip in to whenever I'm feeling lost or downtrodden." - Emma Thatcher

Program Overview

The documentary video production course, offered in collaboration with the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, the Cuban National Institute of Film and Television (ICAIC), and the University of Havana, takes you through all the crucial steps from the development of ideas and research through editing and post-production. In addition, you attend screenings of Cuban documentaries, workshops, master classes, and class discussions exploring various aspects of documentary practice and Cuban cinema.

Outside the classroom, you live in a historic Cuban ‘casa particular’ with a Cuban family and other students, centrally located within walking distance to the campus of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba and the University of Havana. 



Your semester abroad consists of your core program course and three additional companion courses, completing a full-time, 16-18 unit semester.

Documentary Video Production (Core)

IFMTV-UT 1959 | 4 units

This documentary video production course, offered in collaboration with the Cuban National Institute of Film and Television (ICAIC), takes students through all the crucial steps from the development of ideas and research through editing and post-production. Students work in crews of four, learning the basic principles of computer operations, logging systems, and on- and off-line editing. Each student completes a final work for a rough-cut screening at the end of the semester. Students are encouraged to research and connect with aspects of Cuban culture and life that are not often seen in mainstream cinema. All projects will be reviewed by a panel of critics comprised of Cuban filmmakers, artists and faculty. Although documentary production is the primary focus, screenings of Cuban narrative documentaries, workshops, master classes, and class discussions explore various aspects of documentary practice and Cuban cinema.

Art and Culture of Cuba

IOART-UT 961 | 4 units

This course provides a multifaceted understanding of Cuban history, culture, and arts from the period of Spanish colonialism, through the wars of independence and the Revolution, and into the “Special Period” of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It examines the many political and cultural transformations and, consequently, how the country’s artistic legacy manifests the spirit of an era through literature, photography, music, dance, theatre, and visual arts.

In addition to class discussions and readings, students interact with the country’s leading artists, writers, and performers. Students also attend lectures, performances, and exhibitions at the Ludwig Foundation, ICAIC, and the National Theatre of Cuba.

Introductory Spanish

IOART-UT 1959 | 6 units

Designed for beginners who need to acquire the basic language skills for functional and practical proficiency, the course introduces pronunciation, vocabulary, useful expressions, and fundamental grammar that allow communication and provide opportunities for expanding the range of one’s conversational ability.

Note: More advanced Spanish courses (IOART-UT 1960 or IOART-UT 1964) are available to students based on the results of a placement exam administered by the University of Havana.

The Cuban Image: 1959-Present

IOART-UT 971 | 4 units

This course will use a wide cinematographic selection, the direct contact with visual artists and filmmakers, and the specialized bibliography and “life histories” of some of the protagonists, to study the cultural history and the main problems in the last fifty years of Cuban society.

A special emphasis will be placed on the cultural relationships between Cuba and the United States of America since the very beginning of the 20th century; as well as those from Europe and the so-called Third World Countries. Students will discuss the cultural processes and the artistic samples from different multiple perspectives such as race, marginality and social exclusion, the remarkable role of artists and intellectuals, and the cultural, gender and sexual identities.

The course will also analyze the Cuban model: the governmental support for culture. The course will explore the shaping of new cultural processes that conditioned iconographic and any other artistic creations, their evolution and the way they were experienced by individuals. The students will have to forge their own criteria taking in consideration the different perspectives of the available sources. Throughout the course there will be a “crescendo” on this viewpoint to provide a critical and multifaceted approach to contemporary Cuban reality, revealing the modifications on individuals and groups through time.

Thinking about the special nature of the consensus in the Cuban society students will face the transit of the “illusion of homogenization” that was generally accepted for more than forty years to the current “kaleidoscopic” society. The collective subject became invisible; the different individuals didn’t speak the same language anymore and couldn’t recognize their own reflection on an imaginary mirror. Therefore the possibilities to establish a new social consensus seem to be a utopian dream. Having a daily life almost immersed in the actual Cuban conditions the students will be in the privileged position of being able to understand the present crossroads of the Cuban society, its new contradictions and possible future paths.

All the students shall watch a minimum number of films, and reading the specialized bibliography will be mandatory. Students will work in teams and individually, and have to produce at least one written essay or an audiovisual material about any of the aspects included in the syllabus. Course includes artists and intellectuals as guest lecturers.

Program Dates

Spring 2017 (Tentative)

Charter Flight/Check-In: Sunday, January 22, 2017 
Charter Flight/Check-Out: Saturday, April 29, 2017



Tisch Film/TV Majors: Sight & Sound Doc (FMTV-UT 80) and one more Sight & Sound of your choice, Production Safety & Set Protocol (FMTV-UT 101)
NYU and Visiting students: Fundamentals of Digital Filmmaking (OART-UT 560) or college level experience in film production.
Please note: one college-level Spanish class is highly recommended in advance of the semester.


Spring 2017: The application for spring 2017 is now closed.

For more information please view our Admissions Calendar.

Application: Please read the following admissions information before starting your application.


  • Academic Year 2016-2017 Full-time Tuition, 12-18 unit flat rate per term: $25,705

Additional Fees Include:

  • Nonrefundable Registration and Services Fee: $1,236
  • Program Fee: $640
  • Media & Production Fee (Documentary): $578
  • NYU Housing (doubles, includes 2 meals per day): $6,714
  • Flight to/from Havana from Miami: Approx. $500
  • Meals: $950-$1,800
  • CSI Insurance $155 

Please review the Tisch Special Programs cancellation policy.

Visit the NYU Office of the Bursar for more information on tuition and fees.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

There are opportunities for financial assistance to study abroad.
Please review the Scholarships and Financial Aid for Study Abroad page for more information.


You will be housed in the Vedado district of Havana in home-stays (casas particulares). Students are provided with breakfast and dinner at their casas.

  • Double bedroom
  • Breakfast and dinner included in program costs
  • Limited laundry facilities on-site
  • No internet available in residence, but will be available nearby at additional cost
  • Rooms furnished with linens and towels included
  • No overnight guests allowed