Ana de Armas has made Cuban film history, becoming the first actress born in the Caribbean country to be nominated for an Oscar. Her performance as film icon Marilyn Monroe in Blonde has been favorably received by critics and, although the movie has had less things said for it than against it, the Cuban actress’s performance has been among the best this year. What other Cubans have been nominated at the Oscars? Here we share the brief stories of figures such as Andy García, Ernesto Lecuona, Juan Carlos Tabío and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.
A star is born
Armas is currently one of the world’s most popular actresses. A lot has happened after she starred at 16 in her first film Una rosa de Francia, opposite Jorge Perugorría. Soon after arriving in Spain, she landed a role in the television series El internado. For a decade, she appeared in a variety of productions of little significance, such as Mentiras y gordas and Faraday. In 2015, she became known in Hollywood after playing the role of Bel in the thriller Knock Knock, although her big break came with her appearance in Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve, opposite Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.
From that moment on, Armas’s career took off. In 2019, she was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for her role in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. Two years later, she starred in the most recent entry in the saga of super-agent James Bond, No Time to Die, and after a delay brought about by the pandemic, Netflix finally premiered Blonde in 2022.
Her portrayal of Norma Jean / Marilyn Monroe initially elicited much controversy. The fact that a Latino actress should play an iconic figure of American culture was not well received, but Ana’s performance was so convincing that she earned a nomination to a Golden Globe and later to an Oscar, in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category.
Everything seems to indicate that Cate Blanchett will win the statuette, after she received the Golden Globe and the 2023 Critics’ Choice Award, for her performance as, Lydia, a famous orchestra conductor, in Tár, but Ana is a winner already.
Ernesto Lecuona, a legend of Cuban music who came close to winning an Oscar
Lecuona is renowned as one of the best composers and pianists in the history of Cuban music. Several of his most relevant works have been included in film soundtracks or have inspired them. For example, his zarzuela María la O was adapted into a film in Mexico, while “Funeral” was the main theme of the 1934 film La cruz y la espada.
One of his most famous creations, “Always in My Heart”, was part of the soundtrack of the 1942 film of the same name. For that work, he received a nomination at the 15th Academy Awards in the Best Song category, although the statuette eventually went to Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”, the main theme from the film Holiday Inn.
Related article: Ten Afro-Cuban Actresses You Must Know
Andy García, playing the role of Vincent Mancini, in The Godfather Part III
García has been the most successful Cuban actor in Hollywood. He left Cuba in 1961, when he was only five, but has never renounced his roots. His appearance in 1987’s The Untouchables, directed by Brian de Palma, threw the doors of Tinseltown wide open for him.
Two years later, Francis Ford Coppola cast Andy in the third film of The Godfather trilogy. His role as Vincent Mancino, the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone, earned him a nomination at the 1990 Academy Awards, in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Andy’s filmography includes more than 50 films and he’s had a star in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame since 1995.
Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, the directing duo of Fresa y Chocolate
The film was based on the short story “El lobo, el bosque y el hombre nuevo” (“The Wolf, the Forest and the New Man”) by Senel Paz, and it explores the bond created between David, a member of the Communist Youth, and Diego, a homosexual artist who suffers discrimination. In spite of their ideological and personal differences, the friendship established between the two main characters prevails throughout a story with abundant social content, set in Havana during the late 1970s.
In 1994, the film Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) shocked the country. The friendship between David and Diego, played by Vladimir Cruz and Jorge Perugorría, respectively, was taken to the silver screen by directors Juan Carlos Tabío and Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.
Fresa y Chocolate won the Goya Award for the Best Foreign Feature Film in the Spanish Language and earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Film category. In doing so, it became the first – and so far only – Cuban film to have been nominated to cinema’s most prestigious award.
Gutiérrez Alea is celebrated as one of the best film directors of all time in Latin America. He wrote and directed more than 20 feature films, among which we highlight the iconic Memories of Underdevelopment, made in 1967.
Tabío directed unmissable works in Cuban cinema, such as Plaff and Se permuta.