Cuba on His Mind: The Dual Life of an Artist-Exile, NYT 8/16/2001

By Linda Richardson, The New York Times 8/16/2001 — CUBA is everywhere in Ivan Acosta’s apartment on West 43rd Street. It’s in the brightly colored paintings on the lemon custard walls, the romantic rhythms on the stereo, the stories playing around in his head.

His country of origin has been a state of mind for 40 years, since his family fled the island after Fidel Castro came to power. As a filmmaker and playwright, Mr. Acosta, 57, has made a life of telling Cuban stories.

His big moment of fame was in 1979 with ”El Super,” his well-received film about the longings and frustrations of a building superintendent in New York. It stands as a quintessential movie about the Cuban exile experience, and became a hit, not just with exiles.

Where has Mr. Acosta been all these years? Glad you asked. (So is he.) He is stepping out tonight to the Latin Beat 2001 film festival at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. His documentary ”Como se Forma una Rumba” (”How to Create a Rumba”) is having its premiere. Mr. Acosta says he’ll wear a favorite beige guayabera.

”The premiere is like winning an award,” says Mr. Acosta, a smile broadening his steel-gray mustache on a recent morning. He’s an unpretentious guy dressed in jeans, a gray T-shirt and shiny brown loafers. He eagerly sits down to talk in his home in the towering Manhattan Plaza apartments. So what’s happened in the 20 years since ”El Super?”

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