_-SinLaHabanaStill.tiff

Yonah Acosta Gonzalez in a scene from “Sin la Habana,” screening virtually at this year’s BendFilm Festival.

What should be filled with passion and artistic fervor instead is kind of just a letdown. Kaveh Nabatian’s “Sin La Habana” starts off strong, with interesting visuals and ballet dancer Leonardo (Yonah Acosta Gonzalez) using his spirituality to achieve his dreams of being a star ballet dancer and one day leaving Cuba. But Leo is hot-headed and arrogant, and gets kicked out of the ballet company he’s employed with after he’s passed over for the lead role in a production. So he starts to work as a salsa instructor, teaching Canadian tourists how to dance. That’s when he meets Nasim (Aki Yaghoubi), an Iranian-born Canadian who is immediately smitten with him.

Leo is given an ultimatum by girlfriend Sara (Evelyn Castrida O’Farrill), essentially to scam Nasim into marriage in order to immigrate, then send for Sara back in Cuba. Leo agrees thinking it’s his only option to achieve his dreams. But Nasim is a bit more open-eyed to the whole endeavor than Leo would think.

While it does depict the lengths immigrants will go to in order to get to a new home and hopefully a better life, as well as the pittance wages they receive because of their status, it still feels weird to focus on a marriage scam as the central way for Leo and Sara to go to Canada.

Besides that, the relationships among the three leads seems to be less of a passionate love triangle and more of a lukewarm journey of self-discovery of characters I ended up not caring about, mixed with far too many extreme closeups.

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Reporter: 541-383-0304, mwhittle@bendbulletin.com

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