Family. Roots. Transnationalism. Connections. Politics.
These are some of the many ideas expressed in Havana Curveball. Yet, the one theme that was the most salient was that of discovering oneself through reaching for one’s dreams.
Mica, first shown as a 13 year old who is embarking on a new and exciting journey through studying for his Bar Mitzvah, lets his honest and thoughtful personality show from the beginning.
The film begins by Mica saying that he could start this story by talking about baseball, his Bar Mitzvah, world politics, or Cuba.
“But actually, I think I’ll start with my Grandpa,” Mica said.
In the early 1940s, Mica’s grandfather and his family fled from Vienna to Cuba, and lived there for two years. Afterwards, the family was granted visas to enter the United States, ultimately avoiding Nazi Europe. This family history peaked Mica’s interest in Cuba, showing that oftentimes there are countless connections between cultures, beyond just the historical and political.
Havana Curveball shows the complexities of U.S. and Cuba relations, through the eyes of a then 13-year-old American teenager. Through creating a service project for his Bar Mitzvah in which he decides to ship donations of baseball equipment to Cuba, he quickly learns the difficulties of business between the U.S. and Cuba, through the sanction and lack of open trade. After five weeks, two months, and on and on, most packages he attempts to deliver have not left Canada. Once almost a year has past, Mica’s persistence over ensuring that his donations make it to Cuba linger in his mind.
Soon after, Mica comes in contact with Pastors for Peace, an interreligious foundation which has been sending “Cuba Caravans” to the island for the past 20 years filled with mostly medical and educational supplies, as an act of civil disobedience toward the blockade against Cuba.
Mica speaks with Pastors for Peace member Carol Cross, who says, “As wonderful as this aid is, in an island of 11.5 million people, it’s not much. It’s sort of a drop in the bucket.”
Yet, Mica’s positivity shines when he insists that any help counts, and Carol agrees that they continue to help however they can. Manolo Enrique, another member of Pastors for Peace, implies how supplies such as baseballs are needed in Cuba though.
“They’re not able to buy baseballs. Let’s say a baseball is made in Germany. If the string that’s used in sewing that baseball is American, Germany cannot sell those baseballs to Cuba,” Manolo said.
As Mica learns more and more about the complications of business between Cuba and the U.S., he and his family are granted the opportunity to travel to the island to witness the need for certain resources themselves.
Once in Cuba, Mica and his father deeply immerse themselves in Cuban culture. One of the shots features a circle of men talking about baseball, a popular group in Havana. This scene and other scenes like it show the true friendliness and spirit of the Cuban people, despite any adversity.
Then, Mica begins to go through a deeper transformation, one that is similar to what I imagine many of the rest of us have gone through at least once in our lives.
While analyzing the impact of his project on a country with such a complex history, Mica eloquently states, “The more you know, the less you know.”
Havana Curveball flawlessly portrays the political issues resulting from the embargo on Cuba in a subtle way, by using a topic that at first glance does not carry many political implications –baseball.
Through watching this film, it becomes clear that Mica in no way wants to “save” Cuba, and he even verifies this sentiment himself when he strategically wrestles with how he should give the equipment away.
In one of the film’s final scenes, a youth baseball team, the champions of Havana, are playing against a Dominican team. At this moment, the complexities of the U.S. embargo, as well as other impacts, are made clear through the lack of resources that the Cuban team has. It can be seen in something as simple as not having matching uniforms, and only having one helmet to share amongst all the players.
Towards the end of Havana Curveball, Mica introspectively states that it “could’ve been us,” touching on the human connection between us all, and the yearning to not stay complacent as we open our eyes to injustices in the world.
* The Havana Curveball world premiere will take place on August 3rd, 2014, at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, honoring youth activism. The filmmakers are also looking for opportunities to bring the film to communities across the country. If interested, please contact the filmmakers for more information at [email protected]
Photo credit: Havana Curveball FB page