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Sunday, April 14, 2019

'Un Traductor': Cuban Translator Learns Meaning of Life

The Film Movement release of the 2018 docudrama "un Traductor" (a.k.a. The Translator) provides further proof that truth is stranger than fiction. Fellow recent Movement release "An Afghan Love Story" is another "based on actual events" movie that reinforces the above statement.

"Traductor" also is notable as a simple movie that greatly defies expectations. Our story centers around 30ish college professor Malin, whom Rodrigo Santoro of the HBO "Westworld" series perfectly portrays. This Cuban native is a Russian literature professor at the University of Havana when the film opens; he also is happily married to an artist and has an adored young son.

Everything changes when Malin arrives at work to discover that his department is disbanded, He learns on regrouping with his colleagues that they are reassigned to the local hospital to serve as translators for Chernobyl victims and their families,

Malin initially understandably balks at being stationed in the ward that treats children; his 'tude softens on helping with a "lost in translation" problem between the Russian mother of a sick girl and a Cuban nurse. 

The heart (in both senses) of "Tradacutor" centers around Malin bonding with an especially sick boy and the father of the nino; the bonding and the angst include the father being a teacher whose Chernobyl assignment was a reward. 

The schedule of Malin and his becoming more involved with his work creates additional friction at home as his wife gets a good opportunity and providing child care becomes increasingly challenging. A "home alone" situation developing greatly escalates the tension.

The larger context is that the Cold War is ending in ways that include the Berlin Wall coming down; also, Cuba is experiencing an economic downturn. Needless to say, this is not a good time for Malin. 

Typical hospital insensitivity and a combination of bureaucracy at that institution and the Cuban government further complicate things on the micro and macro levels. In other words, the personal and professional worlds of Malin are experiencing tremendous stress at a time that his country also is enduring game-changing struggles. 

All of this leads to inevitable fish-or-cut-bait moments; Malin must choose wisely regarding the next stage in his life. The fact that the audience connects with him from the start invests in the outcome.

As indicated above, the power and the appeal of this film is the same as all good docudramas. A sympathetic personal face is put on world events about which we learn much more than we absorbed through media accounts. In this case, it includes the new knowledge about Russian patients going to Cuba.

Movement provides icing on the cake in the form of the well-paired short that accompanies every selection in the Film of the Month Club of this purveyor of global films. The selection this time is "For Dorian." This film takes a sensitive approach to a man struggling with his teen son with Down's Syndrome demanding more freedom and generally experiencing the same symptoms of adolescent as every lad his age. 

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