Intermediate Documentary Film 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.


Program Overview

The intermediate documentary film production course, offered in collaboration with the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba 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. 

Photo of Matthew Tan working with a film camera

Matthew Tan

"Having previously worked mostly in narrative filmmaking, I'd had little exposure to documentary, and felt that this program was well-suited to my desire to grow creatively as well as culturally."

— Matthew Tan, spring 2019


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

Please Note: Students studying abroad on a Tisch track are not eligible to pursue an internship (except for Theatre in Ghana and Television Writing in London). Tisch programs do not provide work visas.

Intermediate Documentary Film Production (Core)

IFMTV-UT 1959 | 4 units | Instructors: Check Albert

This documentary film production course 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. Students will use DaVinci Resolve to edit their work. Each student will produce and edit a 3-5 minute portrait of a person and a 7-10 minute documentary on a topic of their choice, completing 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. One Cuba student joins each crew in this course. 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

ISPEC-UT 961 | 4 units | Instructor: Ludwig Foundation

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. Students also particpate in a walking tour of Old Havana and visit the organic farm Finca Marta.

Introductory Spanish

ISPEC-UT 1959 | 6 units | Instructor: Ludwig Foundation

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 (ISPEC-UT 1960, ISPEC-UT 1964 at 6 credits and ISPEC-UT 1961) are available to students based on the results of a placement exam administered by the University of Havana.

The Cuban Image: 1959-Present

ISPEC-UT 971 | 4 units | Instructor: Ludwig Foundation

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 2025

Program dates are TBA.




Tisch Film/TV Majors: Two Sight & Sound courses and Production Safety & Set Protocol (FMTV-UT 101). It is recommended that one of the courses you have as a prerequisite is Sight & Sound Documentary (FMTV-UT 80). Please note: one college-level Spanish class is highly recommended in advance of the semester. No exceptions will be made for the prerequisites. Prerequisites will not be waived.
NYU Students: Two of the following production courses and Production Safety & Set Protocol (FMTV-UT 101). Please note: one college-level Spanish class is highly recommended in advance of the semester.

  • Fundamentals of Digital Filmmaking (OART-UT 560)
  • Fundamentals of Digital Filmmaking II (OART-UT 561)
  • Fundamentals of Documentary Filmmaking I: Making a Short Observation (OART-UT 580)
  • Fundamentals of Documentary Filmmaking II: Documentary Discovery - Directing and Producing a Short Documentary Film (OART-UT 581)

Visiting students: College-level experience in narrative or documentary film production. Please note: one college-level Spanish class is highly recommended in advance of the semester.

Please note: Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months past the end of the program at the time of your application. There are no exceptions.

The spring 2025 application is open.

Application Deadline: August 15, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. ET

For more information please view our Admissions Calendar.

Application: Please read the following application requirements before starting your application.

Note: Students should wait to receive their admissions notification and confirmation that the program is running prior to purchasing airline tickets. Students accepted to the program should purchase refundable airline tickets and/or travel insurance in the event the program is canceled or program dates are changed due to world events. It is strongly recommended that students purchase insurance for trip cancellation, flight cancellation, luggage loss or damage, as well as medical and accident coverage.


Estimated total cost of the spring 2024* program: $45,415

  • Academic Year 2023-2024 Full-time Tuition, 12-18 unit flat rate per term: $33,194

Additional Fees Include:

  • Program Fee: $676
  • Media & Production Fee: $689
  • NYU Housing (doubles, includes 2 meals per day): $6,951
  • Required group flight to/from Havana from New York (we are leaving from JFK): TBD (Approx. $750)
    Tickets from group flight are non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • Meals: $1,500-$3,000
  • CSI Insurance $155

*Spring 2025 rates TBA

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.

Food in Cuba

Meat and carbohydrates are staples in the Cuban diet. While fruit is plentiful, and it is possible to get vegetables at certain food markets,  it is easier for students to purchase fruit than vegetables but both come at a higher cost as they are not readily available as they are in New York. If you are a vegetarian, vegan, or have special dietary restrictions, please contact Tisch Special Programs to discuss food options.


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*
  • Rooms furnished with linens and towels included
  • No overnight guests allowed

*Internet access is unreliable across Cuba. There is no internet available in the casas particulares; intermittent wifi connection is available nearby for an additional cost.