By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
“The Cuban” opens in Chicago at Gene Siskel Film Center and select cities July 31 and stars Oscar- and Emmy-winner Louis Gossett Jr. (“An Officer and A Gentleman,” “Roots” and “Watchmen”), Ana Golja (“Degrassi: Next Class” and “Full Out”), Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Sand and Fog” and “Star Trek Beyond”) and Lauren Holly (“Dumb and Dumber” and “NCIS”), among others.
When a pre-med student gets her first job in a nursing home, an unexpected friendship with Luis (Gossett), an elderly Cuban musician, reignites her love of music and changes her life forever. This film “is a powerful heart-warming experience of music, friendship, family and loyalty that highlights the humanity of some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
“The Cuban” was such a joy to watch during a time when things around the world are so chaotic for some. To be able to hear Cuban jazz and to see another stellar performance by the great and legendary Black actor Gossett brings the viewer even more joy. Gossett is the first Black male to win an Oscar for a supporting role for his character Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley in the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Golja who plays the Afghan immigrant med student Mina takes a personal interest in Luis against the direction of her manager at the nursing facility.
Luis, who is 80, is living with dementia and has been mostly lethargic up until now. She reawakens his soul and spirit as he recalls his earlier days as a jazz guitarist in Cuba. He painstakingly recounts his love for a fellow musician named Elena.
Luis hasn’t been eating and Mina sneaks in Cuban food, as well as old phonographs and a record player. And although her job seems insurmountable because she’s going against her aunt’s and manager’s wishes, Mina is determined to pull Luis out of his shell. Luis is full of life and thrives even more when Mina takes him to a club to hear a Cuban jazz band.
But happiness is short lived, and the end is kind of predictable but sad, nonetheless. The dream sequences that highlight the Cuban night scene are as vivid and enlightened as the smiles on Luis’ face and eyes.
“The Cuban” was directed by award-winning director Sergio Navarretta and has a predominately female creative team, including Albanian-Canadian Ana Golja (Lead and Producer), Celiana Cardenas from Mexico (Cinematographer), Italian Can-
adian Alessandra Piccione (Screenwriter and Producer), Canadian Jane MacRae (Editor) and Los Angeles-based Dondrea Erauw (Music Supervisor).
Part of the music team was comprised of Grammy-nominated and Juno-winning pianist Hilario Durán. Roberto Occhipinti produced the score, and Golja performed the vocals on various tracks. The sound team (Oscar-nominated team from “The Shape of Water,” which won best picture Oscar in 2018) was led by Nelson Ferreira.
For information on how to stream “The Cuban,” and enjoy a live question and answer panel with Gossett and others, visit [https://watch.eventive.org/thecuban/play/5f0f79f8bd43310062e501bb].