Best Films Presented During the Havana Film Festival in NYC
Last week wrapped up the 16th Annual Havana Film Festival New York (HFFNY), a festival designed to introduce audiences to prominent and emerging filmmakers by showcasing the latest award-winning films as well as classics from and about Latin America – but mainly Cuba!
HFFNY is all about cultivating audience-artist dialogue through panel discussions that give a behind-the-scenes look at the cinema industry. Viewing a film often meant being able to stick around afterwards for a Q&A with the director to learn more about their thoughts while making the films and about the industry in general.
I had the privilege of checking out quite a few of these films and I’d highly recommend checking them out on your own! Some are emotional, some are humorous and some will make you go “Huh?!” Here are my favorite films from this year’s festival:
Best Fiction: Venicia
Three ladies slump through their work day at a beauty salon in Havana. An after-work shopping trip turns into a wild night out where the girls learn more about each other, indulge in temptation and make plans to start their own business. Director Kiki Alvarez does a great job capturing each shot and Screenwriter Claudia Muniz not only creates a story that holds your attention but is almost unrecognizable as one of the lead actresses. What makes this movie most interesting is knowing its improvised. Good luck figuring out which moments are scripted and which were thought up on the spot!
Best Documentary: Havana Curveball
Becoming an adult is about more than reciting a few prayers and having a huge party. When Mica Jarmel-Schneider’s synagogue announces he would have to do a service project to prove he is growing up, the San Francisco teen decided to combine his passion for baseball with his connection to Cuba. Mica collects baseball equipment to donate to children in the city his grandfather lived in after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria during the Holocaust. It’s a three year journey, as Mica learns that getting equipment to Cuba isn’t as easy as he thought it’d be but his determination to commit to his original plan makes for a compelling story.
Best Special Program: Nosotros, La Musica
Can you really talk about Cuban culture without talking about music? This year’s Havana Film Festival dedicated an entire day to Cuban music – not just celebrating rumba classics, but exploring the various influences from Europe, West Africa and American jazz. Most films in this program ran approximately 20 minutes featuring conversations with artists like Alberto Zayas and classic performances by such esteemed performers as Queen of Guaguanco Celeste Mendoza.