Sin la Habana
Sin La Habana is my first feature film, a labour of love that began with a trip to Cuba in 2005.
Leonardo, a classical dancer, and Sara, a lawyer, are young, beautiful and in love. They’re also ambitious, but their dreams are thwarted by Cuba’s closed borders. Their ticket to a brighter future lies with Nasim, a tourist with a taste for the exotic. An Iranian-born Canadian, she’s struggling with her own demons. Power, money, creativity and destiny intertwine in a passionate love triangle with a hint of magic, where cultures clash in a torrid dance between Quebec’s winter and Havana’s sultry Malecón.
Sin La Habana holds a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is a New York Times Critic’s Pick. It is available in the US on major streaming platforms (Apple TV, Amazon, Youtube, etc.), distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures. Available in Canada on iTunes.
Premiered at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (October 2020)
Selections: Miami IFF, VIFF, BendFilm, Ashland, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, AFI Latin, Mosaic Int’l South Asian, Phoenix, San Francisco Jewish, Reelworld Opening Night Film (Toronto), New York Jewish, Atlantic Dance Festival, FICFA, Les Percéides, UK Jewish Closing Night Gala Film, Philadelphia Jewish, Barcelona Jewish
- Prix de la diffusion Québecor (Festival du Nouveau Cinéma)
- Best Canadian Film (Vancouver International Film Festival)
- Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature (Nominated)
- Canadian Screen Award for Best Screenplay (Nominated)
- Prix Iris, Best First Film – Won (Sin La Habana)
- Prix Iris, Best Director – Nominated (Sin La Habana)
- Prix Iris, Best Film – Nominated (Sin La Habana)
- Prix Iris, Best Screenplay – Nominated (Sin La Habana)
- Prix Iris, Revelation of the Year – Nominated (Sin La Habana)
- Prix Iris, Best Editing – Nominated (Sin La Habana)
- Prix Iris, Best Sound – Nominated (Sin La Habana)
- DGC Discovery Award (Nominated)
- Best Director (Bend Film Festival)
- Gerald Hershfeld Award for Best Cinematography (Ashland Independent Film Festival)
- Grand Prix du Jury (Les Percéides)
- Outstanding Director (Reelworld Film Festival)
- Outstanding Screenplay (with Pablo D. Veitia Herrera – Reelworld Film Festival)
- Outstanding Actor (Yonah Acosta -Reelworld Film Festival)
- Outstanding Cinematography (Juan Pablo Ramirez – Reelworld Film Festival)
- Outstanding Actress (Aki Yaghoubi – Reelworld Film Festival)
- Best Cinematography (MISAFF)
- Best First Feature (MISAFF)
- Best Editing (MISAFF)
- Best Screenplay (MISAFF)
- Best Sound Design (MISAFF)
- Best Production Design (MISAFF)
- Centerpiece Gala Film (UK Jewish Film Festival)
- Centerpiece Film (New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center)
Kite Zo A (Leave the Bones)
An immersive exploration of rituals in Haiti, co-created with dancers, musicians, fishermen, daredevil rollerbladers, machete fighters, and Vodou priests. Set to the poetry of Wood-Jerry Gabriel, Leave the Bones is a celebration of the complex and beautiful spirit of the island.
Grammy Award-winning musician Joseph Ray teamed up with traditional Vodou supergroup Lakou Mizik to write an album of spiritual and folkloric songs reimagined for the 21st century. These original arrangements, blended with new sound recordings and interviews, form the backdrop to a sensorial film that takes the spectator on a journey through Haitian rituals: from the roaring Rara music of Jacmel’s Kanaval, to the spiritual songs of a candlelit Vodou ceremony, to the visceral rhythms of modern-day Port-au-Prince.
Director/Cinematographer/Editor/Co-producer: Kaveh Nabatian, 70 minutes/ HD, 16mm
Premiered at: Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (Montréal) October 2022 – Audience Award (International Panorama)
International premiere: SXSW – March 2023
- Miami International Film Festival
- Reelworld Film Festival (Toronto) – Outstanding Cinematographer Award
- BendFilm (Oregon) – Best Editor
- FIFAC (French Guyana) – Prix des Lycéens
- Thessaloniki ISFF – Cinematic Achievement Award
- DOXA (Closing Night Film)
- Trinidad & Tobago FF (Closing Night Film)
- Rooftop Films Summer Series
- Jecheon International Music & Film Festival (Korea)
- WOMEX (Spain)
- Big Ears (Tennessee)
- Festival Afro-Urbain (Montreal)
- Choreoscophe (Barcelona)
- Gimli FF
- Bucharest International Dance FF
- DC Caribbean FF
- Caribbean Tales (Toronto)
- Paraloeil (Rimouski)
- Rencontres du Documentaire en Haïti (Port-au-Prince)
- Festival Int’l du Film Documentaire de Jacmel (Haiti)
- Les Percéides (Quebec)
- Pop Montreal
- 3 Rivers FF (Pittsburgh)
- Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma
The Seven Last Words
In the late 18th century, Josef Haydn was commissioned to create a composition based on the Bible’s Seven Last Words of Christ. In homage to the music and its evocative themes, I developed a seven-part film to be projected during performances of the piece by the London-based Callino String Quartet. Seven accomplished filmmakers from different cultures, religions, and cinematic approaches each created a film to accompany a “word” and its sonata. The films are highly personal and diverse interpretations of the music and the theme of the “word”.
Premiered at Rotterdam IFFR (January 2019)
A music video for my friend Aurora about self-acceptance, blood and dancing.
A music video I made for my man Leif Vollebekk on a deserted beach in Florida. We danced up and down this path at magic hour until we got kicked out by the rangers.
In this music video for Half Moon Run, a man starts a New Age movement in Mexico. When it gets too big, he loses his grip on reality. Tequila meets yoga meets madness in a resort town.
Set in Mexico City over the course of a single day, this is the true story of an older man’s decision to accept his homosexuality. Told without any dialogue, this award-winning short film is a cinematic exploration of shame, catharsis, and ultimately, transcendence.
- Canada’s Top Ten Films (TIFF)
- Best Cinematography and Sound Design – Prix Prends ça court!
- Chris Award for Best Narrative – Columbus International Film Festival
- Special Mention (International Category) – Mexico Short Shorts Film Festival
- Prix du Public – Image+Nation (Montréal)
- Silver Palm – Mexico Int’l Film Festival
- Senior Award for Best Short Film – Amsterdam LGBT Festival
Nominated for Canadian Screen Award and Jutra Award for Best Short Film.
This is the first single off of Joseph Ray and Lakou Mizik’s album “Leave the Bones”. I shot it and co-directed the video with Joseph during the Jacmel kanaval in Haiti. It’s a song about Ogou, the Vodou spirit of Iron and War. A Vodou follower asks for protection from the brutality of life’s daily battles – “Ogou, you brought me here, take care of me.”
A series of music videos I directed for Bell Orchestre’s House Music album. The first video is an excerpt of a larger concert film that we shot in the country in Rivière-Perdue, Quebec.
The last is made up of footage of Coney Island filmed during the 1930’s and refilmed and manipulated on my Bolex. There’s something about seeing people letting go and having fun in the midst of the Great Depression, as their faces slowly move between fear, joy, and ecstasy, that struck a chord with the uncertainty of this pandemic we are living in.
A no-budget music video made for my old friend Little Scream (Laurel Sprengelmeyer) in a decrepit pool in New Orleans, starring underground drag star Neon Burgundy.
A journey through the Haitian carnival as experienced by a young woman, this film straddles the lines between documentary, visual poem, and hallucination. Filmed in hyper-saturated 16mm, angels of death and groups of men covered in black syrup battle a giant “Master of Midnight” with fire blazing in his eyes to the beat of Haitian rara and raboday music. Created in collaboration with the director’s students from the Cine Institute in Jacmel, Haiti, and based on a poem by young Haitian poet Gabriel Wood Jerry.
Nan Lakou Kanaval is the first film in the Rituals of Catharsis series.
- Most Creative Short Film – Festival du nouveau cinéma (Montreal)
- Best Director – Regard sur le court-métrage au Saguenay
Usually, when we watch a rock band play, we don’t look at the details of how the music is being made. We hear music coming at us, almost magically, from larger-than-life beings singing and playing instruments. With this video, I wanted to deconstruct the way in which the music is actually created: strings vibrating, fingers moving with Olympic agility and precision, tendons flexing, involuntary muscle movements, quivering metal plates. As the video becomes more psychedelic, I imagined where the music comes from, using archives and home videos from the band: the universe around us, childhood memories, travel, catastrophe, magic, the birth of a child.
Nominated for Best Montreal Music Video at MUVI Awards
A short urban fairy tale about an emotionless young man who lives in a dystopian Montreal where humans coexist with hypersensitive white-eyed beings. One day, he sees a mysterious girl who changes his life.
Award: Prix de l’interprétation masculine – Paris Courts Devant
On one day during Holi celebrations every year, veiled women in the northern Indian towns of Nandgaon and Barsana strike men with large staffs, re-enacting an ancient Hindu legend. A psychedelic 16mm journey into light, colour, and violence.
Holika is the second film in the Rituals of Catharsis series.
Commissioned as a Carte Blanche by the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (Montreal).
Part of a series of documentary portraits for Unicef Haiti about inspiring kids living in difficult situations.
Edyl lives with his father and his sister, who lives with disability. Suffering from hypertension since having a stroke in 2013, the father is no longer able to work. To contribute to the meager family income, Edyl decided to make some money by working in the neighborhood bakery. With his small earning, he manages to take care of his father and to put some money aside for schooling. His dream is to become an agronomist. “So many people go hungry here. I want to feed the country,” he says.
Part of a series of documentary portraits for Unicef Haiti about inspiring kids living in difficult situations.
Djolanda is 11 years old. She lives with her mother and her two brothers. Since her violent father left home, the girl is concerned for her mother and feels she has a role to play to help provide for the family.
The trailer for a feature-length documentary I made for Canal D and CBC about the the life cycle of the t-shirt, from cotton ball to garment factory to recycling plant to the West African cities where our used t-shirts often end up.
Brad Barr had the idea to make a video about the band trying to sing a song but being thwarted on all sides. I added a mythological element to it. We shot it on a roof in Montreal on an insanely hot day in March. We had been prepared for snow but ended up with sunburns.
Busby Berkeley-inspired choreography meets “waacking”, a street dance popularized in gay clubs in 1970s LA, via sexy zombies in this horn-fuelled anthem to feminine strength.
Finalist: Silver Sound Showdown Festival (NYC)
Leif Vollebekk becomes a lonely Uber driver in Miami.
I was one of sixteen filmmakers who worked on this film: a kaleidoscopic romp through a semi-industrial neighborhood that pays homage to Hubert Aquin’s classic 1962 film by drawing together the work of multiple filmmakers to capture everyday life in a vibrant working-class community on a single summer day. A thoughtful spatial metaphor in which people—the city’s vital force—flow through St-Henri’s streets, steam tunnels, train tracks, and magnificent central canal like blood throbbing through veins.
This is a cool little no-budget Take Away-style music video I made a couple of years ago with Arcade Fire, my students at the Ciné Institute in Haiti, and my friend and fellow teacher Maxence Bradley.
A micro-budget film commissioned by the Toronto International Film Festival on the theme of “family”: Boy meets girl. Boy doesn’t have condom. A film about destiny, love, and soul music.
- Jury Prize – Iron Mule Comedy Festival (NY)
- Second Place – Fantastic Fest (Austin)
- Best PSA – Couch Film Festival
A music video for Socalled, featuring Jewish cultural icon Theodore Bikel and rapper Sans Pression. Puppets created by Clea Minaker.
I did the cinematography for this trippy video, directed by Mylène Simard. Three days in the country, no money, and lots of enthusiasm. And a willing spider.
I directed this video for the band I play in, Bell Orchestre. The song is called Upwards March.
Award: Best Experimental Film – 2008’s SXSW
A video for Montreal band Torngat inspired by Fritz Lang’s M. They wanted a video about the idea of escape.
It is a Sunday afternoon in the universe. When a mysterious musical force causes scorching heat, tornadoes, and raging fires to devastate our planet, four very different people await the impending disaster at a local corner store. A film about the human ties that bind us when catastrophe is imminent.
Award: Honourable Mention – Columbus Film Festival