How 'The Cuban' Shows the Power of Imagination: 'THR Presents' Q&A With Ana Golja, Sergio Navarretta, Louis Gossett Jr. and Shohreh Aghdashloo

The director and lead cast of the vibrant drama — about a young woman who helps a man with Alzheimer's relive his past as a famed Cuban musician — discuss the film's overriding message.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Ritman spoke to Sergio Navarretta, director of The Cuban, plus the film's lead star and producer Ana Golja and her fellow castmembers Louis Gossett Jr. and Shohreh Aghdashloo, in a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.

The wide-ranging conversation saw the filmmakers and actors discuss the key messages and takeaways from the Canadian film, which has already won several awards, including at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival, Montreal Black Film Festival and Whistler Film Festival.

The Cuban follows Mina Ayoub (Golja), a pre-med student and once-aspiring singer working part-time in a Canadian care home thanks to her aunt (Aghdashloo), whom she was sent to live with after being orphaned as a baby in Afghanistan. While attending to the patients, she encounters Luis (Gossett Jr.), an elderly man suffering from Alzheimer’s who spends most of his days in solitude. Inspired by a poster on his wall, Mina begins playing jazz music to Luis, igniting a spark inside him that gradually reveals his vibrant and colorful life as a hugely popular musician spent performing alongside the greats back in his home country of Cuba.

“I would say the overriding message [from the film] is that we need to cherish the time we have with our elders,” said Golja, who first started developing the idea following a dream her producing partner Taras Koltun experienced about reuniting with his grandfather in Russia. “I think we need to respect them and care for them and listen to their stories. We forget how they lived incredible lives and have so many stories to share.”

For Navarretta, who was initially approached to work on The Cuban by Golja because of his musical background, the film is a testament to the power of imagination.

“This particular film deals with Alzheimer’s, but whether it’s someone suffering from schizophrenia, for example, there are so many ways that we can apply this principle, which is to really honor the imagination and celebrate it,” he said, adding about people's experiences during COVID-19: “We’ve learned so much in the last year, just about our connection to our elders, about our connection to each other. And it’s been a reset in so many ways.”

THR Presents film screenings are powered by Vision Media; additional Q&As and other supplementary content can be viewed in THR’s new public hub at THRPresents.HollywoodReporter.com.