It seems a common theme amongst many Latin Americans is a desire to leave their respective countries. Of course, this is not the case for everyone, but Sin La Habana is a story for those who have left or want to leave. It focuses on the changes that occur when someone leaves their lifelong home for a completely different place and all the challenges that one faces throughout that journey. Rather than focus too much on the political side of things, which is fascinating, of course, filmmaker Kaveh Nabatian focuses on the personal toll it takes on people who decide to emigrate.
Leonardo (Yonah Acosta Gonzalez) is a young Cuban ballerino who is quite sure that he’s the best dancer in the company. At the outset, he lets his director know this when he’s not cast in the lead role and is thusly fired. Leonardo goes home to his girlfriend, Sara (Evelyn Castroda O’Farrill), a lawyer, to let her know that he was fired. She alludes to the fact that he often puts wrenches in the works of their collective life as they strive to achieve their shared desire: leaving Cuba. Leonardo gets a job as a salsa dance instructor, and Sara comes up with the idea that Leonardo seduces “one of the foreigners” who attends his class in hopes of a green-card marriage. It doesn’t take long for Leonardo to meet an Iranian-Canadian woman named Nasim (Aki Yaghoubi).
“…Sara comes up with the idea that Leonardo seduces ‘one of the foreigners’…in hopes of a green-card marriage.”
It isn’t long before Leonardo leaves Cuba to visit Nasim, but the visit turns into a long-term stay. Leonardo still plans to get Sara out to Montreal, but of course, Nasim doesn’t know this. In the meantime, he is trying to join several dance companies and keeps getting rejected. He then gets a job through a friend he meets at a meat-packing plant. His friend then tells Leonardo that he can get one of his friends to marry Sara and bring her to Canada. This all sounds pretty complicated, right? Well, I know from many people I’ve met over the years that this is a normal practice for people who want citizenship in a “better” country. What we don’t often hear about is the emotional toll it takes on all the parties involved. Sin La Habana shows us this toll in its three central characters.
As well as being a different spin on the typical immigrant story, Nabatian’s film has some astoundingly beautiful cinematography and editing. There are scenes of Cuban spiritual practices overlaid with Leonardo’s lonely walks through the snowy metropolis that is Montreal. The three central performances by Gonzalez, O’Farrill, and Yaghoubi are wonderful. You really feel the love, joy, and pain that all three are going through in the midst of this rather dramatic situation.
At the end of the film, you are left with a sense of hope but are also kept wondering how the three will end up further along on their journeys. Writer/director, Kaveh Nabatian, is an excellent storyteller. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the beautiful musical world of dance, love, and heartache that is Sin La Habana. It’s a world definitely worth exploring.
"…astoundingly beautiful cinematography and editing."