A documentary from Andrew Lang, in his debut directorial outing, Sons Of Cuba gives us an insight into the life of the Havana Boxing Academy and, more specifically, three young boys with all of their hopes and dreams poured into their boxing gloves.
Cuba has, as sports fans may already know, dominated the world of Olympic boxing for the last quarter of a century or more (having won 63 Olympic medals in the sport in the last 40 years, 32 of them gold according to the documentary’s blurb). The intermittently reliable source of all information that is Wikipedia puts it this way, at this time of writing: “From 1968 in Mexico City to Sydney 2000, Cubans have participated in seven Olympic tournaments, winning twenty seven gold medals, thirteen silver medals, and seven bronze medals for a total of forty seven—a number unmatched by any country. Cuba is the only country that can boast of two three-time Olympic Champions: Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon.”
So it’s clear that Sons Of Cuba should appeal to boxing fans but what’s here for the rest of us and will there be anything to make the journey worthwhile. Well, first of all we get what every good/great documentary needs – great characters. Young Cristian is the dedicated lad who wants to be the best of the best. Santos and Junior are the other two that the film focuses on but we learn more about the boxing academy and what it means to everyone more through their flaws than their sporting prowess. Then we have the coach, Yosvani, who pushes groups of kids way beyond the usual limits that kids have but who does so because he wants them to do well and get the chance that they’re all fighting for. This is a coach who is moved to tears when one of his boys loses, something well worth remembering after all of the hard work that he puts upon them.
We also get added drama here as Fidel Castro falls ill, leaving many wondering about the future of their “fatherland” and leaving a lot of the young hopefuls wondering if they will ever get to meet their leader even after success (Castro would usually attend the winner’s parade held after Cuba’s national boxing championship for under 12s along with many other people-pleasing appearances).
And on top of all that, we get the everyday trials and tribulations of people trying to make a better life for themselves while struggling on through whatever each day brings them. There is no doubt that, despite the others involved, we are all pinning most of our hopes for the characters on young Cristian but the journey for all involved is moving, and portrayed in the best unintrusive fashion, and will have you wanting some kind of good ending for all involved, whether that be in the ring or out of it.
The subject matter has been covered before in different media but rarely has anyone managed to get the mix of both sporting and cultural insight that Lang does thanks to the timing of his filming schedule. And I can’t forget to mention the quite delightful soundtrack, which includes a most appropriate and superb cover of “Children Of The Revolution”.
The DVD (released here in the UK on 20th September 2010) comes with a wealth of extras for fans of the material. While I’m not the world’s biggest sports fan I’m sure there are others who will enjoy the featurette on “Miami’s Cuban Boxers with Aaron Brown”. There are also a couple of pieces about showings of the movie, at the Cuban premiere and the Rome Film Festival, but best of all is a commentary track from director Lang who continues to comment on the context of the movie and the surprises that occured along the way, many of which he was only to happy to capture on film. A solid selection in this 2-disc set.
DIRECTOR: ANDREW LANG
CAST: CRISTIAN MARTINEZ NORIEGA, YOSVANI BONACHEA MORGAN, SANTOS URGELLES DIAZ, JUNIOR MENENDEZ LEMAR
RUNTIME: 89 MINUTES APPROX