New York’s NewFest, in its 23rd year, came to a close July 28 with the announcement of its winners prior to their closing night screening of “Gun Hill Road.” Of over 50 films, winners included Maryam Keshavrz’s “Circumstance” (Best Film - Narrative Feature), John and Gretchen Morning’s “Gone” (Best Film - Documentary), Eric Brach’s “Habana Muda” (pictured) (Special Jury Prize - Documentary), Michael Stabile’s “Smut Capital of America” (Best Doc Short), Kyle Henry’s “Fourplay: San Francisco” (Best Narrative Short), and “Tomboy” star Zoé Héran (Best Performance).
Review from Vox:
This is not your typical director-grills-the-subject kind of documentary, and don’t expect to have the characters all figured out after watching Eric Brach’s Habana Muda. Brach, a self-proclaimed true documentary filmmaker, chose to leave the story of a contorted love triangle ambiguous to even the most insightful.
The film follows Chino, a deaf mute jack-of-all-trades, trying to support a mute wife and two children in Cuba. But, this film is neither a rags to riches story nor a nasty soap opera affair. In addition to being a supportive husband and father, Chino is in an open relationship with a man from Mexico. Chino suddenly finds himself dreaming about a new life, a new job and a new love. Believe it or not, Anaylis, his wife, is all for it. “He’s a free man. What can I do?” she signs. However, as plans begin to fall through and lies start to mix with truths, Chino becomes trapped between two countries, two loves and the fine line between dreams and reality.
Habana Muda is a film unlike many others. Brach definitely takes advantage of his talented photographers. Every shot is a photograph in itself. There are no special effects or fancy cinematography, just beautiful, true images of this captivating story. Sound is as much of a presence in the film as the characters and images are. As you can imagine, with deaf mute characters, the film is mostly silent, filled with traffic, people yelling, the sounds of the ocean and music in the place of character voices. You can’t help but listen to the sounds of Cuba and realize Chino and Anaylis have never heard them and never will.
At the heart, this film covers love in all the confusing forms it can muster and depicts it with all the drama and comedy that comes with life. The audience becomes torn between two couples: Chino and Anaylis who look so in love, while they dance and laugh to music they can’t hear and Chino and Jose who support each other, but their motives are indistinguishable. Be prepared to test the typical stereotypes of love and family and to create your own idea of what these characters are really about.