DO you recall Kim Hopkins's 2013 documentary Hotel Folly-Folie A Deux, where she charted Helen Heraty's remarkable determination to open Gray's Court hotel in Chapter House Street, York, against all odds?

Now York filmmaker Kim, who runs her Labor Of Love Film production company from Bishopthorpe Road, is to show her latest documentary feature, Voices Of The Sea, at City Screen, York, on Monday (December 10) at 8.30pm, when she will end the night with a question and answer session.

Kim's award-winning film follows a young mother who yearns to escape the unending hardships of a remote Cuban fishing village in search of a false and potentially fatal American Dream.

"Revealing stark realities for the poorest of rural Cubans with unique access and empathy, this is the story of a 30-something mother of four longing for a better life," runs the documentary's tagline. "The tension between wife and ageing husband – one desperate to leave, the other content to stay – builds into a high-stakes family drama after her brother and the couple’s neighbours escape."

"There are similarities with Helen Heraty's family because the film focuses on a family again, this one is caught up in geo-politics, whereas Helen was caught up in a financial crisis," says Kim. "So I focus on a family as a microcosm to show how the geo-politics between Cuba and the US impinge on the family dynamic."

Already Voices Of The Sea has made an impact. "The film was American financed and was broadcast on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) on September 3," says Kim. "It premiered at the True/False Festival at Columbia, Missouri last year, where they only take 40 films because they believe only 40 good films are made each year. Do I agree? Of course I do, as we were selected!

"It was then shown at the Lincoln Center in New York City in June as one of only 15 films selected for the prestigious Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and at the Curzon Soho, London, during the Open City Documentary festival – and the best feather in our cap was winning best documentary at both New York Latino International Film festival and Boston Latino International Film Festival. We've just sold the film to ARTE for French and German release too."

York Press:

York filmmaker Kim Hopkins

This is but the end of the creative story because the film's journey has been a remarkable one, requiring daring and ingenuity on Kim's part to bring the fishing villagers' story in Castro's Communist Cuba to a wider world.

"The roots of the film go back to when I co-founded the documentary department at Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in San Antonio de Los Banos, ten miles south of Havana, in the late Nineties," says Kim, the daughter of an American father and a British mother.

"During my four years at the film school, I would accompany documentary students to various filming locations as we pushed, sometimes naively, at the envelope of what was, and what was not permitted to be filmed in Cuba. What usually came out of Cuba were films about cigars, rum, architecture, old American cars, dance and Cuban music, and that's it. They became the staple diet for these wannabe documentary filmmakers.

"But I also learned they had a big love for all things Ernest Hemingway, who was seen as a safe documentary proposition to get green-lighted by the tightly controlled film school."

It was during one of these student documentary scouts that Kim visited Cajio Beach. "It was a small, rundown fishing village with 250 inhabitants, off the tourist track on the unfashionable south coast – where the beaches were covered in red mud rather than white sand – and the solitary hotel had long ago been blown away by some typhoon," she recalls.

"Here, dozens of lithe, weather-burnished fishermen would row tiny paint-peeled skiffs, each with an identifying number daubed on the bow, out into the bay of Batabano, with no motor, only returning once the ice box was full of Cubana snapper. It was a scene Ernest Hemingway might have imagined when he penned The Old Man And The Sea in 1952."

Kim first read Hemingway’s novella at the age of eight. "Its elegiac atmosphere and epic themes, I now realise, had stayed with me as I surveyed the scene here at Cajio Beach. Fast forward to 2014, when a film about adoption I was working on had collapsed and I was looking for another subject to steal my heart, rob me of five years of my life, and leave me financially teetering."

York Press:

Ageing Cuban fisherman Pita with his much younger wife, Maiela in Voices Of The Sea

As with most things Kim does, they are never really planned, they just happen, she says. "It was then that my Cuban translator’s name popped up on my Skype window. We hadn’t spoken for years and we reminisced about my time at the Cuban film school and our days fishing in Cuba.

"I’ve always been a keen fisherwoman. There I had it, my next project: fishing, Cuba, Hemingway and a reunited Cuban friend to fix it."

Her years of working at the Cuban film school enabled Kim to wrangle unfettered access under the guise of a cultural exchange, but then came President Obama’s statement to the world in December that the USA and Cuba were restoring diplomatic relations. "My Cuban fixer friend skipped the island, closely followed by thousands of his country folk. Cuba was once again in flux," Kim recalls. "This was the trigger for us getting on the ground in Cuba as fast as we could, as we knew every documentary maker and their dog would converge on Havana."

And so, all these years later Kim was back at Cajio Beach. "Tiny fishing skiffs bobbed in the cobalt blue bay. Nothing had changed. It was as if I’d drifted back into Ernest Hemingway’s world, but this time with a camera," she says. "I met and befriended Orlando (Pita), an enigmatic Cuban fisherman, his much younger wife, Mariela, and their four children.

"I entered their simple, proud, pre-industrialised world that was bereft of technology, caught in a Cold War time warp of limitation, but rich in family values. On the horizon however, the spectre of change loomed in the shape of the American illusion. Whereas Hemingway’s ‘old man’ fought to hold on to a giant fish, Orlando’s fight, I soon discovered, was to hold onto his values and loved ones."

York Press:

Fisherman Pita with two rowing-boat oars in Voices Of The Sea

Mariela's first husband has drowned trying to flee Cuba on a raft; will she now make her own desperate plunge into the unknown after brother Roilan reaches the U.S. on a homemade boat? You must watch Kim's film to learn the answer as she presents a balanced, empathic and lyrical portrait of contemporary Cuban realities, hopes and dreams in an age of political uncertainties, vying Chinese, Russian, and US interests and still constricted freedoms.

Kim had arrived without the all important camera permit in her hand, but knew it was on its way, because the authorities thought she was making a film about Hemingway's book, with access to a rowing boat too. "We basically stayed in an abandoned house in the village, which was pretty tough: loads of insects, no water, no electricity, but we knew what we would be facing.

"What we found pretty quickly was just how disillusioned – outside Havana – people were with their lives and how they wanted to tell their story, even at a risk to themselves. It was endemic that pretty much everyone was trying to leave that village, making balseros, illegal boats made in secret with stolen motors, with 20 people on board at a cost $400 dollars, selling everything to get on it," says Kim.

"We were fearful of getting caught up in aiding and abetting those who were trafficking the people wanting to leave, but we managed to get a small domestic camera on board one of the boats going to Florida, training a fisherman to use it."

The Cuban military have a presence in such villages where they know people want to flee to the USA. "After ten weeks in the village, we had our collars felt by the military, who descended on us, but we'd made contingency plans for this, as every day we would back up our material and store it away, so when the military marched us out of the village and confiscated material, we were prepared," says Kim.

"But at that point we were lucky because we didn't yet have the raft material – just some pretty innocuous stuff – otherwise we would probably still be eating beans and rice in captivity now.

"Instead, we were allowed to continue, but once we got the raft material we knew we had to get out of Cuba pretty quickly, changing our flight plans to leave as soon as possible. We had a nervous three or four hours at the airport, with the film material taped into the lining of our cases, and I knew that material could put us in a Cuban jail for a decade."

Kim was searched, as she knew she would be, but made it through to the plane. "Once it left the runway, we breathed a huge sigh of relief," she says. And now The Voices Of The Sea can be heard and the Cuban villagers' story told.

Voices Of The Sea will be shown at City Screen, York, December 10, 8.30pm, followed by a Q and A with director Kim Hopkins. Box office: 0871 902 5747 or at