Miami 2021 Review: SIN LA HABANA, The Journey to the Self's Realization
We have all (especially in recent years) witnessed the physical lengths that people will go to, to reach another country and hopefully a better life. But there are emotional ones as well: emotional norders and boundaries, lines we cross that we shouldn't, ones we try to erase, and ones that appear when our attention was somewhere else. What happens when a long physical separation leads to an emotional one, or when our attachments blur the lines between what we need and what we want?
in his feature film debut, Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Kaveh Nabatian tells the story of three lives meeting each at their most vulnerable point. Each of their choices reflects their ambition, their pain, and their live, as they navigate a world which is frequently unkind.
Leonardo (Yonah Acosta), a dancer, and his girlfriend Sara (Evelyn O'Farrill), live lives of what could be called quiet desperation in Havana. As a black man, Leonardo faces discrimination in his profession, while Sara knows she could go much farther in another country. They hatch a plan: Leonardo will seduce Nasim (Aki Yaghoubi), and Iranian-Canadian woman, in the hopes that she will sponsor him to join her in Montréal. When the time is right, he can divorce Nasim and bring Sara to join him.
Leonardo is a talented ballet dancer and he knows it; others know it to, but for many reasons, including his skin colour, he's never going to have the success he wants. His anger is palpable, and his smooth-talking of Nasim to achieve his goal of a new life in Canada is belied by his obsession with voodoo magic, which he is convinced will help (or harm) him. Sara is no less romantic than Leonardo (and a great dancer herself), but also practical. She is taking as much of a risk as he, being left behind, not knowing if he will keep his promise. And Nasim knows, deep down, that something isn't right; but she has left her own personal nightmare in her abusive ex-husband; perhaps Leonardo is lying to her, but at least it's a pleasant lie (though she does support him), and doesn't she, like them, deserve another chance.
Each of these characters moves with a different energy, and the energy around them shifts them, and shifts with them. Leonardo, used to the warmth and making his living from dancing, now shivers in the seemingly endless Montréal winter and finds poorly paid work in a meat plant; his frustration grows as even here, it seems. Nasim is still figuring out her new life, an existence of herself away from the constraints of familial expectation, and takes comfort in creating works of glass art. These two know their destiny is not together, but they enjoy each other and the deception, even if it is temporary, and both of wary of their bad decisions. There are moments of the energy of each character - dance and colour and light, as if theirs stories were having their own dreams, trying to work out their pain and wants while each slept, but they wake up again, knowing they will have to take the step to make their own lives happy.
Nabatian juxtaposes Leonardo's situation against another with her own immigrant experience, that of the first-generation. Nasim's family come with their own rituals outside their adopted country, and their own prejudices. Nasim knows too well that problems don't get solved by just moving to another country, and many of these problems - racism, sexism, any difficulties with career - have no national borders.
Sin La Habana weaves its tale of three souls who come together by strange force and circumstance, as each tries to figure out where home is, what family and love is, and what their place is in the world.