Baghdad, Puerto Rico

Read more

Puerto Rico is a unique, beautiful island. It’s a halfway nation, err… o.k., make that a halfway U.S. colony. As such, it has characteristics of a developed nation (abundant quantities of Burger Kings) and those of a third-world country (abundant quantities of Burger Kings) at the same time, and Tinseltown appreciates that.

At least George Clooney and gang do. Taking advantage of the third world-looking parts of my homeland and that nice attractive tax break given to films shot in the island, the actor-producer will begin shooting Men Who Stare at Goats there this month, along with stars Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.

Based on the book by Ron Jonson, the film focuses on the U.S. Army’s exploration of New Age concepts for the War on Terror in Iraq…or should I say Bayamon, Puerto Rico? No joke. Local newspaper El Nuevo Dia reports that a production team is already painting local houses of this picturesque town known as “La Ciudad del Chicharrón” with a nice Baghdad “dirt-like” color and placing signs in Arabic everywhere, including local stores and an abandoned gas station. Some puertorros must be very confused by now: “Ay bendito se acabo el guiso compay, llegaron los terroristas!” Yet, we can see others being actually excited and thinking of ways to get close to the Academy Award-winner stud with that hospitality that is so distinct of Puerto Ricans: “Pérate mija, corre y llévale estas alcapurrias a Georgie.”

Handsome isn’t he? Well you can thank Puerto Rico’s special law which gives the film industry a whooping 40% tax credit, one of the highest incentives in the world. On the big screen, Puerto Rico has passed for Cuba (Steven Soderbergh’s Che with Benicio del Toro), Mexico, Hawaii ( the forthcoming A Perfect Getaway with Milla Jovovich,) the  U.S., Europe, space and now Baghdad.

It goes to show producers can re-enact any place in the world for a good price. In last week’s colossal 400-plus bailout bill passed by Congress to save America’s economy, Puerto Rico’s film industry tax breaks were extended (go… Washington?)

What’s next? Reykjavík, Puerto Rico? Can’t wait!