Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Lost Son of Havana — Film Review

By Cleo Brown

When I was a youngster growing up in Oakland, California my grandmother proved herself to be a traitor to our family and to its die-hard San Francisco Giant sentiments, as well as to its great love for Willie Mays. For Grandma, although she rarely displayed interest in baseball, demonstrated an affinity for Luis Tiant and The Boston Red Sox. She would say, “Elaine, Elaine, let’s watch Luis throw the ball,” never categorizing me with the other members of my immediate family.

It was, therefore, with great pride that Grandma watched Mr.Tiant, who was a pitcher, hit both a double and a homerun to help his team as they struggled to clinch penants and to win The World Series. Gaining my grandmother’s loyalty and devotion as a baseball fan was not easy for Luis Tiant to accomplish for Grandma usually manifested a disdain for organized sports. I ask myself, consequently, in 2010 after viewing Luis Tiant’s story in Lost Son of Havana why he has not yet been inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Produced by The Farrelly Brothers in conjunction with ESPN Films, Lost Son of Havana is not only a great baseball film but it is also an excellent documentary managing to gain a foothold inside of Fidel Castro’s Cuba as of November of 2007. Luis Tiant, who was born in a suburb of Havana, Cuba in November of 1940, left Cuba in 1961 for several months to play baseball in the United States. During the interim period of time, however, Fidel Castro’s Regime gained control of the tiny island country refusing to permit those Cubans who were abroad to return unless they did so immediately.

Luis Tiant, therefore, remained in exile in the United States for forty-six years before being given permission to return home to Havana. This is the story, subsequently, which Lost Son of Havana chronicles: Luis Tiant’s exile in The United States playing superior baseball in both the Minor and the Major Leagues for a variety of Teams including The Cleveland Indians, The Minnesota Twins, The Boston Red Sox, The New York Yankees, The Pittsburgh Pirates, and The California Angels.

Walking in the shoes of his father, who played baseball in The Negro Leagues of the United States, Luis Tiant proved himself to be a superior talent on the mound who, unlike most other pitchers of his day, could also hit the ball out-of-the park. This film also chronicles Tiant’s triumphant return to Havana in 2007 in which he witnessed the overwhelming poverty and desolation which his remaining family and friends in Cuba now live.

With a haunting musical score by Robert Miller; Narration by Chris Cooper; Eye-opening photography by Alistair Christopher; and Writing and Direction by Jonathon Hock, Lost Son of Havana is a moving tribute to Luis Tiant which yet fails to answer the question “Why hasn’t Luis Tiant been inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame?” Viewing the lengthy film a second time I was struck by the racism which Tiant said he had been the victim of in The United States. In retrospect, however, more indicative of Tiant’s exclusion from Baseball’s Hall of Fame is his Cuban ethnicity indicating a degree of Xenophobia in the selection process despite his American citizenship and forty-six years in The United States.

Ah, if my French, Indian, and African (Creole) Grandma were only living today to watch Luis Tiant pitch once more! More than any other factor, the baseball footage of Tiant on the mound, is the most enticing charm of Lost Son of Havana. I long to hear Grandmother Beaulah say again, “Elaine, Elaine let’s watch Luis throw the ball!” On a scale of from one to twelve roses I give to Lost Son of Havana a thirteen.

Please visit the official movie website for details:

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