A scene from "The Companion", Cuba

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Coming out of the 2016 Miami Film Festival, the 2016 Malaga Film Festival and the Rencontres Cinémas d’Amérique Latine, Toulouse with the audience awards, The Companion is the third feature by  Cuban filmmaker Pavel Giroud.

Set in 1988 Cuba, as the government dispatched HIV patients to AIDS centers under military rule, the film narrates the story of Horacio Romero (played by Latin Grammy-winning singer Yotuel Romero, vocalist of the hip hop group Orishas), a former Olympic boxing champion involved in a doping scandal, and Daniel (Armando Miguel Gómez), a soldier infected by an African prostitute while on an internationalist mission and one most defiant patients at Los Cocos AIDS Center.

In these early days of the epidemic, in which the official response to the disease is defined by fear and stigma the hospice where patients are confined is somewhere between a medical facility and a prison, whose  main purpose is medical and social quarantine. Horacio, the fallen boxer, is obliged to serve as Daniel’s “companion”, really a kind of  surveillance guard, to earn his redemption. Despite the strained situation—and Daniel’s determination to escape the facility, and ultimately the island —the relationship between these fallen heroes gradually materializes into one of solidarity and friendship.

The two men in question belong to two sectors of society producing great models in which the Cuban revolution proudly embodied itself: sports and the military. They have both sullied the image of these two standards of the Revolution and for this reason they are excluded.  For Giroud, the conflicts these two characters represent - freedom and social exclusion -are universal themes placed in the particular context of Cuba in the 1980s.

With a well-structured screenplay and two solid performances by lead actor Miguel Gómez and newcomer Romero, The Companion, is Cuba’s bid in the 2017 Awards’ season.