[Editor’s note: Havana Curveball is not yet available for individual purchase or rental. To screen the film at a school, library, synagogue, or local theater, contact Leah Lamb at leah@patchworksfilms.net.]

By Stuart M. Katzcorrespondent

Havana Curveball, a new documentary by filmmakers Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, tells the tale of a bar mitzvah boy’s innocent and initially naïve efforts to complete a community service project as part of his traditional rite of passage. 

Thirteen year-old Mica, the filmmakers’ son, lives in the San Francisco area, where he attends public school, takes piano lessons and plays sports – especially baseball. As he approaches his bar mitzvah, he begins collecting baseball equipment that he intends to send to Cuba, where his grandfather lived for two years after escaping from Austria during World War II. “Cuba saved my grandfather’s life,” he says. “And I wanted to repay a sort of debt.” 

Mica’s project is well-received, at least in his community, where donations of equipment pour in. His excitement builds as the donations arrive and he packs them up to transport to Cuba, where he understands that kids are playing baseball with sticks for bats, cardboard mitts, and balls made of rocks covered with tape. The first curveball he faces, though, is when his attempts to ship the equipment to Cuba are met with rejection by various representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS, who thwart Mica’s project with phrases like “economic sanctions” and “trade embargo.” [pullquote]“Cuba saved my grandfather’s life,” Mica says. “And I wanted to repay a sort of debt.” [/pullquote]

Narrated by Mica, the film chronicles his education about U.S.–Cuba diplomatic relations, creative alternatives, disappointment, and his efforts to see the project through to conclusion. In the film, Mica grows up a great deal, both literally and figuratively, as his three-year journey plays out, both in the U.S and abroad. 

Produced by Mica’s prescient filmmaker parents – who began filming before the first curveball was thrown – Havana Curveball will touch the heart of any parent who has witnessed a child coming of age without necessarily anticipating all of the obstacles on that path. Kids approaching beyond bar/bat mitzvah age and beyond will appreciate the film, too, as they see a peer navigate his way through daily life and the adventure of a lifetime.

But the film strikes a broader and deeper chord, too, as Mica gains a fuller appreciation of his grandfather’s relationship with Cuba, the effects of the trade embargo on Cuban baseball lovers, and the responsibilities accompanying Jewish adulthood. Along the way, Mica gets to see and play baseball in a new way.

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Stuart M. Katz is a die-hard Yankees fan. An attorney at Cohen and Wolf in Bridgeport, Conn., he chairs the firm’s Litigation Group, practicing mainly employment law, and represents employers as well as executives.