El Acompañante, a film that stars singer Yotuel Romero of the recently reunited Cuban hip-hip group Orishas, is Cuba’s bid for the 2017 Academy Awards.
The movie, about a disgraced boxer working as a companion to a patient in AIDS quarantine at a Havana sanitarium, was directed by Pavel Giroud. Cuba’s film institute, ICAIC, announced that El Acompañante is Cuba’s entry for both the Oscars and the Goyas, Spain’s prestigious annual film awards. Cuba is one of a handful of countries that have announced their submissions for the February 2017 Academy Awards. Earlier this year, El Acompañante tied for the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2016 Miami Film Festival.
“I wanted to portray a Cuban boxer from the school of Cuban boxing, which for me is one of the greatest in the world,” says Yotuel (he is known to fans of his music by his first name). “I wanted to show the characteristic ‘dance’ of the Cuban boxers when they fight. And I wanted the fights to look real.” He did his own boxing in the movie.
The news about the film’s submission for the Oscars coincides with a much-publicized comeback of Orishas, the trio that Yotuel founded with Roldán and Ruzzo in 1999 that attracted an international following with its innovative mix of urban music and traditional Cuban rhythms. The group, whose last album was released in 2008, recently dropped a new single, “Cuba Isla Bella,” with a video shot in Havana.
Orishas is currently on a cross-country tour in the U.S., with the next date set for New York’s Irving Plaza on Thursday (Aug. 25).