‘Mambo Man’ offers up an idyllic Cuba in the face of economic and social hardships

Two independently produced films provide vastly different backdrops and stories just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Freddy Moyano

JC, played by Héctor Noas (left), travels the Cuban countryside with David, played by Alejandro Palomino (right), in the 2020 film “Mambo Man.” Photo courtesy of Corinth Films

The very first time I watched “Mambo Man”— sometime along the pandemic-filled summer of 2020—it felt like a very special piece of my heart had taken a one-way trip to a whimsical image of Cuba. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting the island, but producer and co-director (alongside Edesio Alenjandro) Mo Fini immerses the viewer in a folkloric, rural Cuba.

This 82-minute, 2020 release fits like a silk glove on the talented hand of actor Héctor Noas, best known for his role in “Sergio & Serge (2017). Noas’ character JC is an everyman with a special warmth everyone around him leans on and benefits from. But when a series of events shake the financial jugular vein of the estate he runs, JC is cornered with a difficult decision. A Cuban native, Noas carries the audience in the palm of his hand as if they were his own family. He shows a deep connection to the people and places around him.

Another riveting aspect of Fini’s work is the music. Fini is no stranger to the music world as a tenured producer and longstanding voting member of the Grammy Awards. He presents Cuba in an unconventional way. He distances the film from Havana’s colonial grandeur and focuses on the countryside and the musical soul the city of Santiago de Cuba has to offer—both connected by the nostalgia of a Chevy Bel-Air.

The ever present lack of money in financially-asphyxiated rural Cuba is likened to a continually broken engine of a harvest machine. The film focuses on music, good food and family values. JC and his entourage protect this lifestyle at all costs amidst the misery
the times. Of special value to me are the many scenes featuring Noas and Camila, his bold little girl, reminding us of the dreams many Cuban families embrace still today.

“Mambo Man” is available for purchase on DVD at Amazon, Ebay, Walmart and other popular online platforms, after touring the festival circuit with over 40 worldwide awards.

Lastly, if “Mambo Man” used the light of the Cuban countryside and the island sun as a common throughout the shortfilm,“72 Horas,” directed by Mexico City native Christian Durán, leaned into the darkness. The low-light film follows the story of a mother pitted against the clock in order to prove her teenage son’s innocence in the fallout of a calamity.

In the end both films bounce back to family as the last resort, reminding the viewer of the important reasons to carry on. “72 Horas” is still in festivals worldwide.

Born and raised in Madrid, Spain, Freddy Moyano has spent almost two decades in Northeast Wisconsin working as an actor, voiceover artist, film editor and entrepreneur. Moyano has produced over 20 motion pictures and earned international recognition such as Best Nature/Wildlife Film Jean Luc Godard Award in 2020. He is the founder and a director of Green Bay-based, international film festival, MLC Awards. Find more information about Moyano and the MLC awards at www.mlcawards.com and www.imdb.me/freddymoyano.

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