A festival to unite New York and Havana

With a tribute to actors Isabel Santos and Enrique Molina, the 17th Havana Film Festival New York will reopen its doors this year to continue to build bridges between the American and the Cuban peoples, this time through cinema.

From April 7 through 15, the event will present an exceptional program that includes recent Cuban films produced in Cuba, or by Cubans in other countries.

As in previous years, awards will be distributed in the following categories: Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress and Documentary. There are 18 films competing this year.

The prestigious festival, an initiative of the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, includes screenings of films that have won festival awards in previous years, as well as independent movies that are not very well known in New York.

Seventeen movies produced and co-produced in Cuba will be shown this year, as well as films from other 10 Latin American countries, including world and local premiers from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

“In our 2016 line-up, we offer a raw worldly view of intimate stories and national histories that challenge us to expand our perspectives,” said Diana Vargas, artistic director of HFFNY quoted in a press release.

Pavel Giroud’s The Companion (original title in Spanish “El acompañante”) will be screened at the opening night. This is Giroud’s third film, starring one of the former members of renowned rap band Orishas, Yotuel Romero, and actor Armando Miguel Gómez. The movie is set in Cuba, in the late 1980s, and is one of the first movies to tell the stories of AIDS patients in Cuba.

Other movies included in the program are The Human Thing (2015), which is the most recent film by Gerardo Chijona, starring Enrique Molina; Bailando con Margot (Arturo Santana, 2015); historical drama Cuba Libre (Jorge Luis Sánchez, 2015); and widely acclaimed Vestido de novia (Marilyn Solaya, 2014), starring Isabel Santos, Laura de la Uz, and Luis Alberto García.

Competing in the documentary category are El tren de la línea norte (Marcelo Martín, 2015); and three short films that were shown in “Documenting the Cuban Rhythm”: The Wheel of Life (Marcia Jamel and Ken Schneider, 2016), Obsesión: Hip Hop Del Otro Lado (Kimberly Bautista, 2015), and Rumba calling (Oliver Hill, 2015).

The festival also includes especial events and panels, such as Filming in Cuba, featuring Papa’s director Bob Yari, NYC-based Cuban director Asori Soto, U.S. filmmaker, activist, and educator Catherine Murphy, and film professor Michelle Farrell as moderator.

The event will also pay tribute to Cuban filmmaker Tomas Gutierrez Alea in his 20th death anniversary screening some of this movies.

The festival will close with the Havana Star Prize ceremony followed by the N.Y. premiere of Papa, the first Hollywood picture filmed in Cuba since 1959. It tells the story of a young journalist who becomes friendly with Ernest and Mary Hemingway and witnesses Hemingway’s decline with the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution.

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