Contemporary Cuban cinema is characterised by social realist drama exploring the everyday lives of ordinary people, a trend exemplified by HGFF’s opening film, ‘Esteban’.
The film which has been hailed by Billboard Magazine as ‘a Cuban Billy Elliott;’, is a low-key intimate drama about a young boy from the wrong side of the tracks who helps his mother sell black market beauty products while harbouring a dream to become a pianist – as its director, Jonal Cosculluela states in his director’s notes, it’s not afraid to confront “the harsh side of the current situation in Cuba.”
However, this is not the sole reason why the film has been such a hit in Cuba, and won the Platino Award for Iberamerican Cinema. The film has captivated audiences through the performance given by its young star, Reynaldo Guanche, and his determination to learn the piano.
Another major point of interest is that the film has a score by Cuban piano godfather, Chucho Valdés. Indeed, Guanche had to learn to play the master’s music .Cosculluela couldn’t believe how amenable Valdés was, stating that “Chucho Valdés agreed to make the original soundtrack for the film just because he believed in the project,”
Ultimately, when asked to sum up the secret of the film’s success by On Cuba Magazine, its director claimed, “If I had to sum up the film in a sentence I would do it through a popular phrase: “I did not know it was impossible and so I did it.” It is a story about dreams, about not quitting, about doing every day something to achieve your goals. I do not believe in obstacles but in perseverance. The film tells how the dream of becoming a pianist of this child was carried out even though his mother was against it.””
‘”Esteban” is as sure to charm audiences at HGFF as it has audiences in its native Cuba.