“The Cuban” is a story of an aging musician diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A young caregiver played Mina by Ana Golja tries non-traditional treatment methods. She uses Cuban music and food to draw out former famous Cuban musician Luis Garcia played by Oscar winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.
This story has romance, medical interest, a mix of cultures and the story of aging in America. It was interesting to see the interaction between Mina and her aunt played by actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. I was provided this movie to review along with the opportunity to interview internationally recognized director Sergio Navaretta about his story line.
I loved the beauty of the story and how Mina interacts with Luis. Young and old, the movie goes from past to future weaving past and present. We see a bit of reality and fantasy through the eyes of a old man and young woman creating their own stories. With music having this impact on Alzheimer’s patients, we need to sit up take notice.
Q: Can you remind me of the background of the medical research for this movie?
Sergio Navaretta’s answer: “From the very beginning of this process, we partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto (Ontario/Canada). They were instrumental – they not only provided data and statistics, but also additional research materials we could draw from. They additionally connected the writer Alessandra Piccione with a top doctor and researcher in the field that helped advise her along the way. We partnered with Baycrest Hospital, which is at the cutting edge of dementia care and research.”
“They have a team of scientists and researchers who are studying the effects of music on the brains of dementia patients, for example. In order for me to fictionalize it and do justice to an emotional subject, I also visited dementia patients and witnessed them coming to life when they listened to music they were fond of in their youth. That basis was extremely helpful, and it gave me context to build and create a world that was rooted in truth externally and in the minds of the characters. I think the actors also benefited from the authenticity built into the script as well as having health care specialists on set when we were shooting in the nursing home. It made it a lot more real for all of us.”
Q: I loved everything about it, my only complaint would be just that the film lighting was dark. Was that on purpose, or just to reflect the situation?
Sergio Navaretta’s answer: “The lighting and stylistic choices were in part designed to make an audience uncomfortable, particularly the dark and devoid color “real world” setting of the nursing home. It was definitely a cinematic choice. My job as a filmmaker is to help viewers feel something, or enter into a world of a character that they may not necessarily be familiar with or identify with. My goal was to achieve that with the artistic and stylistic choices I made. I hope the audience truly feels for Mina and Luis in their journey to discover one another and ultimately themselves. The contrast between modern day and what we will call the vibrant, colourful “flashbacks”, was created for effect. The juxtaposition of those settings, like a piece of music, is what helps you better appreciate what happens in the fantasy world of his mind.”
Q: I liked the way different cultures were brought in and thought it was interesting bringing in different food and music for brain stimulation. Was any specific medical research used for this film?
Sergio Navaretta’s answer: “Piccione, the film’s writer, based those moments on real research done on sensory stimulation through the most powerful sense: auditory, taste, and touch. Again, this research was done in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto (Ontario/Canada) and Baycrest Hospital. The weaving of various cultures was a true extension of who we are as Canadians, having grown up as first generation children of immigrants in a very multicultural society. Ultimately, the universal truth between the film’s characters, whether Cuban or Afghan, is that they feel marginalized and isolated to some extent, and they turn to music and each other for comfort.”
“It was satisfying to do a deep dive into two cultures that have rich cultures and histories. We spent many months with our Afghan consultants for example, and with the legendary actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. I will never forget those dinners where we talked about life, politics and religion. What I love most about these experiences is being able to reaffirm the truth that underneath our so-called differences, there are many more similarities between cultures. It is wonderful to have an opportunity to shine light on communities that are often misrepresented in the media.”
Q: I love the way the film ended with the music and Luis’s performance. Is this possible for someone with Alzheimer’s to actually recuperate to do something of this sort, or can anyone really know?
Sergio Navaretta’s answer: “Yes, I witnessed it firsthand. I was invited to see a Spirit of the West concert, and John, the lead singer, had dementia. The event was in support of Alzheimer’s research, and I saw him come to life on stage. As soon as the audience cheered and he heard those familiar tunes, he lit up. The music and the experience somehow connected to a deeper part of him that not even a debilitating disease like Alzheimer’s could dampen. It was a deeply moving experience and I will never forget it. Obviously, everyone is different, and there are so many types of dementia that everyone responds uniquely. It also depends how far the disease has progressed.”
Q: I noted that Luis’s realty seemed to be different than the true reality (of the movie). Is this something that seems to happen sometimes with Alzheimer’s patients that they seem to have a different take on what has happened in their lives?
Sergio Navaretta’s answer: “Yes, based on our research there are definitely instances when the lines between memory and fantasy get blurred – but that is also true for people without dementia. If two people recall the same incident or memory, they will likely recall it very differently. So, in storytelling, I like to challenge the idea of objective reality. Just because we can touch and feel things, it doesn’t make those experiences any more real to our brains than the experiences of a person with schizophrenia who is living out something in his or her mind, for example. If someone vividly imagines being chased by a tiger, that person’s body response will chemically be the same as if he or she were actually being chased by a tiger. The point is that the mind is extremely complex and I imagine that one day our current idea of reality will be obsolete.”
Madison Tobin who provided me with the PR information for “The Cuban” shared that VOD’s release date will be October 6, 2020. “It will be available on the following platforms – Apple TV, Amazon, Fandango Now, Vudu, Google Play, Vimeo, and cable platforms including Comcast, Charter, Spectrum, Cox, Direct TV, Dish, Verizon, Mediacom and Frontier.”
If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy reading my article about Canton Mississippi where a few movies were filmed!