Reviewed by Paul Booth: In this multi-layered script about the journey of life, love, loss and it is no surprise it serves up a gambit of emotion like a Duke Ellington tune. It is perfect Jazz and was used as the base of this story because the film touches on what makes Jazz. The art-form is not just Kansas City dive bars, late nights in Harlem, Saxophone’s, Piano, and Art Blakey on drums; it is the pulse of our existence. It was an astute observation by both the writer and Director to place this in the world of an aging man (Luis), who would be old enough to know “Real” Music.
The story revolves around Nina (Ana Golja) as she takes her first job at a Nursing Home. She is a pre-med student who meets Luis (Louis Gossett Jr.) a patient in the home. Luis is not very responsive until Nina brings in some Jazz records her Grandpa introduced her to as a child. I was pulled in instantly since my Grandma is how I got a deeper connection to Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong.
There is another beautiful aspect of this film, music is personal. Yes, this film is and was; but for me, films are personal as an entity. Music, one note can bring you tears, laughs, pain, joy, and make you dance like Luis (Gossett Jr.) does the moment the needle hits the Vinyl. This is all captured by a DP who had an elegant style like a slow Miles tune from the Album Kind of Blue.
Nina is a beautiful, soul and (like all of us) has some personal struggles outside of the nursing home. The film touches on some interesting Cultural topics, but for me, the film is like my motto “listen to your (heart) beat and enjoy dancing in the music of your friendship.” I was also impressed with Nina’s ability to go toe to toe with Oscar-winner Louis-Gossett Jr. who has been a scene-stealer since the early 1980s. Louis Gossett Jr. shows us, like Jazz, good is good and nothing changes.
All of this is orchestrated by Director Sergio Navarretta, who understands the number one key of a great film, keep it simple. The film he made is by no means simple (excellent Costume and Production Design), a tough story with a lot of emotions to balance, but along with his shot choice and overall understanding of the “bigger picture,” he did it. There are many overused words, but it was a brilliant job behind the camera. He painted with music and the foundation of music is less is more.
The score/soundtrack gets all the senses going and makes you laugh, dance, and cry. Here is where the greatness lies, this music is a cross-pollination of Blues, Jazz, African music, Cuban mix,—music snob’s label, but like life, all is one. It requires all the elements. How can it be one or the other when Cuba is in between Africa and New Orleans. It’s all in the gumbo. The African Rhythms partied with the Cuban style and dropped in on some New Orleans horns driven by people who had THE BLUES.
Now the soundtrack! Here is the link to the soundtrack: https://hilario-duran.lnk.to/TheCuban. It is stellar and few musicians can pull off mixing Mariachi’s, Salsa, Jazz, Blues, and African-American rhythms with such “gusto and bravado.” Tito Puente, Carlos Santana, so few.
The film is sweet, wonderful, charming, and unique in an era when very few films are. It is no surprise The Cuban has won multiple Film Festivals and multiple Awards at each. This is a must-see film, it turned out as a beautiful “Piece of music to listen to.”
Running time :109 minutes /Directed by Sergio Navarretta and written by Alessandra Piccione. Starring Louis Gossett Jr., Ana Golja, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Lauren Holly Giacomo Gianniotti Running Time: 109 minutes
**Winner – Audience Favorite Award – Pan African Film Festival 2020
**Winner – Special Programmers Award – Pan African Film Festival 2020
**Winner – Best Cinematography in a Borsos Competition Film
**Whistler Film Festival 2019
**Runner up – Audience Award – Whistler Film Festival 2019