Sin La Habana is a tour de force that had me shouting “bravo, bravo!”
The film opens up with scenes in Havana showing a compelling beauty and rawness to life on the tropical island of Cuba. There is magic in the air with dancing, music and beautiful people; and then, the story starts.
On the surface, the story appears simple enough – a young Cuban couple in Havana are trying to escape their country and go to the land of opportunity.
Sara is a lawyer and convinces her partner, Leonardo, a ballet dancer, to seduce a foreigner, get married and get his foreign residency papers. Then, Leonardo can bring Sara out of Cuba and they would live happily ever after in a new country.
Their victim, Nasim, a tourist from Montreal, is taking salsa lessons in Havana and becomes the unsuspecting target of Leonardo.
The story and plot line are filled with deceit and lies. Amid the twists and turns in the relationships, we see the desperation in Leonardo’s life unravel into arenas that are foreign and uncomfortable. He is focused on finding a new life and believes his spiritual guidance and Chango, with voodoo, roosters and stones, will give him luck.
Nasim brings Leonardo back to Montreal and this is where they find themselves heading down unexpected paths in their search for a new life. Leonardo’s experiences in Montreal expose him to scam artists, drugs and the harsh reality of having to earn a living by something other than dance. He is humbled by his experiences in the dance world, however, he is vulnerable to doing right and has a sense of morality. He expresses an innocence that makes him a target.
Director and writer Kaveh Nabatian has created a fusion of emotions working with both Cuban and Canadian sensitivities. Leonardo, played by Yonah Acosta, shows wonderful depth in portraying emotions and feelings but this is countered with the character’s underlying seething for societal norms and his expectations that he has a right to things he has been denied.
This film is wrapped in beautiful cinematography with textures, tones and hues that are mesmerizing to watch. A special mention goes to the cinematographer, Juan Pablo Ramirez.
The music and sound score have been skillfully crafted and the editing of the score is award deserving.
This movie has story, acting, cinematography and sound. It is entertaining and is deserving of being on the big screen. For these reasons I highly recommended this movie with four out five tugboats.
Sin La Habana is showing at 7 pm on October 2 at the Patricia Theatre as part of the Powell River Film Festival.
Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.