Yanks Tanks is a first look at the phenomenon of classic American cars in Cuba. Like an exotic, endangered species, these colorful cars roam around this island paradise trapped in a 1950’s time warp. As beacons of individuality in a sea of government conformity they represent freedom for those who own them. Owners who will do almost anything to keep them running. Seeing these old cars in recent films and photographs one wonders how they have maintained them after decades with no spare parts and an embargo by the United States. After repeated trips to Cuba, the Schendel brothers succeed in taking a close look into the underground world of Cuban cars, finding along the way a gallery of eccentric characters – the curators of the largest, living, automobile museum in the world.
Through interviews, the viewer is introduced to mechanics, parts Inventors, racecar drivers, artists and owners who work daily on mechanical problems that most Americans would easily scrap a car for. Using beautiful shots of the vintage cars, contemporary Cuban music and never released footage from the Cuban Television Archive the film takes the journey into the surprising and sometimes uncharted territory of Yank Tank owners.
With humor and stunning visuals, Yank Tanks “throws open” the hood and suggests that private entrepreneurship is on the rise in Cuba, ironically concentrated in symbols of American freedom and ingenuity. Ultimately, the viewer is given a portrait of a hard-working and resourceful island people who cherish American cars and take the phrase, “living with less” to a new level. Timely and provocative, Yank Tanks will stimulate and entertain those who are interested in learning about an island at the crossroads of several cultures that have been off-limits for many years.