The Cuban – Film Review

The opening credit sequence is comprised of evocative watercolor images of Havana. The splashes of color and bubbly Cuban rhythms set the stage. Lou Gossett, Jr plays Luis, a dementia patient who finally shows emotion when the new nurse Mina (Ana Golja) brings in some of her family’s 45s. Of course her administrators push against any effort of music as medicine.

A subplot unfolds when Mina meets a fellow medical student, who conveniently is studying that which afflicts Luis. Mina soon figures out that the right cuisine also brings him out of his shell; at no small risk she brings in food of her own making. He becomes fully engaged, and opens a dusty suitcase. It is filled with photos and memorabilia that further uncork his memories.

Mina pushes forward in helping Luis, but she faces blowback from the administration and her adoptive mother. Mina was orphaned in Afghanistan and gave up her dreams of becoming a singer.

As Luis opens up, Mina reconnects with her earlier musical aspirations. The importance of the music is unnecessarily amplified in the Luis flashback scenes.

Too predictably, the hard-nosed administrators clamp down on Mina’s efforts. Echoes of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” begin to filter through. Adding to the dramatic tension, Mina’s aunt also wants to keep Mina singularly focused on pre-med studies.

The musical flashback scenes are a bit stilted, but they serve as juxtaposition to the circumstances faced by Luis.

Sergio Navarretta‘s direction is quite steady. The script from Alessandra Piccione follows a familiar trajectory, but there are some intriguing nuances to several of the secondary characters. Set and filmed in Canada and Cuba, the overall production looks great.

The Cuban garnered kudos at several festivals this year, including Audience Favorite Award at the Pan African Film Festival and the Official Selection at the Sonoma Film Festival.

Trailer available here.



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.