Maritza De Armas/Contributing Writer
Reinaldo Cruz’s story is one central to the identity of Miami. He was the first recorded Cuban rafter escaping the oppression of Fidel Castro’s government.
Now, his story is immortalized on the screen and coming to FIU.
“El Balsero” is an independent short film that is inspired by the true story of Reinaldo Cruz. At 16-years-old, Cruz watched his home country, Cuba, and the freedom of its citizens get torn apart by Castro’s government and National Police.
Years later, he discovered his childhood best friend was violently murdered by a Castro sympathizer.
Cruz, 21-years-old at the time, set off on a six-day trip to the United States–by raft– to search for freedom.
The film focuses on the theme of believing in something so much that someone would be willing to put their life at risk out of hope for a better life.
“When you believe in something that much that you’re willing to risk your life, that’s really courageous,” said José Navas, the film’s director.
El Balsero, or The Rafter, will be shown at the Green Library on the Modesto Maidique Campus on Wednesday, Sept. 25. at 7 p.m. The Cuban Research Institute organized the screening.
The audience will have the chance to ask questions about the film, the plot and the filmmaking process.
A discussion with Navas and Cruz will follow the screening. The cast of the film will also be a part of the discussion.
Rather than delving on the political side of the film, Nava hopes to discuss not only the act and courage of Cruz but also the importance of attaining freedom and the lengths people will go to reach it.
“I want the audience to be touched by understanding a difference side of stories, especially people who don’t know about immigrants that come over here for a better life. Whether you’re Mexican, Nicaugrian, Cuban… I think this sheds light on what these people go through and why they come over to America,” said Navas.
El Balsero won the Audience Award for Best Film at the Miami Film Festival and Best Short Film at the New York Latino Film Festival.
For more information about the event, visit cri.fiu.edu/events/2019/film-screening-el-balsero-the-rafter/
Note: This story was originally released in the print PantherNOW newspaper.