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Jul 18, 2024 at 7:30 pm

Sin La Habana

With Kaveh Nabatian & Lila Nazemian

Doors 7:30p
Program 8:00p

352 Onderdonk Ave
Ridgewood, NY

UnionDocs is delighted to partner with ArteEast to co-present TRACES OF THE UNKNOWN! The program brings together films addressing the human condition through stories and mysterious occurrences connected to spirits and gods derived from West African and Afro-caribbean diasporic religions. Featuring Djibril Diop Mambety’s Le Franc (1994) and Kaveh Nabatian’s Sin La Habana (2020) and Kite Zo A (2023), the filmmakers present narratives rooted in temporal realities and contexts, revealing cycles as well as contemporary incarnations of the human experience. Each film reflects different aspects of the socio-economic and political struggles faced by millions around the world due to the ongoing legacies of colonial subjugation. A focus of music and dance is a thread that further connects these works, setting the stage for a stimulating visual, sonic and somatic experience for viewers.

The in person screening at UnionDocs will present Nabatian’s Sin La Habana. In Nabatian’s Sin La Habana, the protagonist, Leonardo, the star ballet dancer in his prestigious dance company, and his partner, Sara, a lawyer, are trying to escape Havana by any means. Over six decades of U.S. sanctions have eroded Cuban national infrastructures and compelled the society to live under strenuous conditions of food instability and extremely limited prospects. Nabatian based each character on Orishas, divine spirits derived from the Yoruba religion in West Africa and part of Afro-caribbean religions, including Santeria in Cuba. When the couple’s initial plan to seek asylum while Leonardo is traveling on tour derails, they decide that he will seduce Nasim, a recently divorced Iranian-Canadian tourist, emigrate with her and bring over Sara afterwards. What initially appears to be a meeting of two deeply opposing cultures–Cuba and Iran–slowly unfolds into a revelation of reconciled values, underlying shared political experiences, and unexpected cultural and spiritual parallels.

Kaveh Nabatian will be in conversation with Programs and Communications Director at ArteEast Lila Nazemian after the screening. Come through!

Note: TRACES OF THE UNKNOWN is a program curated by Lila Nazemian, Programs and Communications Director at ArteEast, and is co-presented by ArteEast and UnionDocs. This program is part of the legacy program Unpacking the ArteArchive, which preserves and presents 20 years of film and video programming by ArteEast. Selections from the program will be screened in-person at UnionDocs on Thursday,  July 18 followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Kaveh Nabatian. The full program will be screened online on artearchive.org from July 18 – 28.


Sin La Habana by Kaveh Nabatian

95 min., 2020, Canada, Cuba, Spanish, English, Persian with English subtitles

Leonardo and Sara, a young Afro-Cuban couple, are desperate to leave the island. They decide that the best way to emigrate is for Leonardo to seduce a foreign woman, get legal status in another country, and then send for Sara. The woman they choose is Nasim, an Iranian-Canadian divorcée who is running from an oppressive past and yearning to have fun for the first time in her life. When Leonardo convinces Nasim to marry him, he is able to move to Montreal, but his plan derails when real emotions get in the way.

Program Duration: 95 mins

Watch the conversation between Presenter1, Presenter2 and Presenter 3 on the UnionDocs’ Membership hub.


Kaveh Nabatian is an Iranian-Canadian director and musician whose evocative filmmaking has brought to life stories from the margins of society and across the world: Haiti, Nunavut, Cuba, India, New York and beyond. His film work ranges from A Crack in Everything, a feature doc about Leonard Cohen, to masterminding the Rotterdam-premiering, experimental, seven-director anthology feature The Seven Last Words, to his Canadian Screen Award-nominated feature narrative debut, the Cuba-set and shot Sin La Habana, which won multiple awards from international film festivals, was a New York Times Critic’s Pick, and holds an 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. His most recent film, the award-winning Kite Zo A: Leave the Bones, is a sensorial documentary feature shot in Haiti, made in collaboration with Haitian musicians, poets, Vodou priests, fishermen, and daredevil rollerbladers. It had its international premiere at SXSW and won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Cinematography in a Documentary.

His cinematic collaborations with musicians and dancers include projects with Aurora, Arcade Fire, The Barr Brothers, Leif Vollebekk, Clara Furey, and Axelle Munezero. And as a composer and trumpet player, he’s toured the world and released several critically-acclaimed albums with his Juno award-winning band Bell Orchestre.

Lila Nazemian (she/her) is an independent curator and the Special Projects Curator at ArteEast in New York. In 2023, she joined the Brooklyn-based Transmitter gallery as a co-director. Her research and curatorial practice are focused on reimagining approaches to histories from the Middle East/Southwest Asia North Africa (SWANA) and Central Asia regions in an effort to counter narrative revisionism and collective amnesia. Recent curatorial projects include: “Conjuring Flames,” Arsenal Contemporary, New York, (2023); “Now That We Have Established A Common Ground” within Protocinema’s Emerging Curator Series, (2022);  “A Few In Many Places, New York,” Protocinema, Governors Island New York, (2021); “I open my eyes and see myself under a tree laden with fruit that I cannot name,” Center for Book Arts, New York (2020).

She received a B.A. in History from Scripps College, California; and an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from N.Y.U., New York. She was a QAYYEM 2019 Curatorial Fellow, was among the inaugural participants of the 2018-2019 Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program in New York and participated in ICI’s 2018 Curatorial Intensive in Bangkok.

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Jul 18, 2024
7:30 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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