By Darlene Donloe
For decades Academy Award winner (An Officer and a Gentleman) Louis Gossett, Jr. has been plying his acting craft in film, television, and on stage.
During that time he has turned in some memorable performances including drill Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman, Fiddler in Roots, and Will Reeves in HBO’s The Watchmen.
He recently added to that list with the role of Luis Garcia in The Cuban, a drama making its U.S. premiere at The 28th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival.
The Cuban, directed by Sergio Navarretta, is a coming-of-age drama that centers on Mina (Ana Golja), a young Afghan immigrant who gets her first job in a nursing home. Her unexpected friendship with Luis, an elderly former well-known Cuban musician reignites her love of music and changes her life forever. Mina, who is pressured to pursue a career in medicine instead of pursuing her love of music, lost her parents at a young age and was sent to live with her aunt in Canada.
With no will to live, Luis sits in a wheelchair all day, retreating inside as he’s looking off into the distance. He’s suffering from Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia and has frequent moments of lucidity and joy. When Mina plays Cuban music for him and cooks his traditional food for him, something triggers Luis who comes to life. The music sparks something inside of him as he has memories of a bygone era.
At its core, The Cuban is about the power of music over Alzheimer’s and how it can literally change someone’s life. It’s also a touching story about life-changing relationships.
The movie is beautifully shot. Each character’s personality has layer after layer that is being peeled back.
The nursing home is stark and colorless. But when Luis hears Cuban music or eats traditional Cuban food, or is taken out of the nursing home for a quick jaunt to a Cuban music club, the colors are rich and vibrant.
|Louis Gossett, Jr.|
Gossett, who founded The Eracism Foundation in 2006, turns in yet another sterling performance as a one-time popular guitarist. Gossett’s eyes tell the story. His hands tell the story. His slow movements tell the story.
He’s brilliant. It’s wonderful watching his master class.
Navarretta said the role was written for Gossett.
“We stalked him for the role,” he said.
Although there are more than 200 films in the Pan African Film Festival, this one is a must-see.
The Cuban does not have U.S. distribution. It will be released in Canada on April 24.
The Cuban, directed by Navarratte, and written by Alessandra Piccione, stars Gossett, Golja, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Lauren Holly, Giacomo Gianniotti, Shiva Negar and Jonathan Keltz.
Running Time: 1 h, 49 min