Synopsis: A Cuban exile returns to her homeland in search of her daughter and unravels a secret that has haunted her ever since she left twenty years before. Piel Canela begins in 1980 during the Mariel boat lift. Cuban exiles in the United States are permitted to return to Cuba for the first time in nearly twenty years. Some hire boats in Miami hoping to retrieve relatives from Cuba. Among them is Veronica, who arrives in Havana hoping to reconnect with a daughter she left behind as an infant.
Veronica searches a row of dilapidated apartment buildings with address in hand and finds Juliette, medical student by day and jinetera by night. As Veronica tells Juliette about her past in Cuba, a series of flashbacks begins: In the late 1950’s, Veronica enjoys a bourgeois lifestyle spending summers living with her aunt at her family’s tobacco plantation in Viñales. Veronica meets the Afro Cuban, Enrique, who works on the farm. The two teenagers enjoy free time frolicking in the idyllic setting. At the end of the summer, Veronica returns to Havana but can’t forget Enrique. When Veronica isn’t allowed to invite Enrique to her grand Quinceañera celebration, she makes other plans to celebrate her birthday. When Juliette realizes that she is the baby Veronica left behind, will she embrace this stranger as her new mother and leave behind the only home she’s known?
As a Latina writer and director, the immigration stories of my parents are a source of inspiration. Authenticity was paramount in bringing Piel Canela (Cinnamon Skin) to life. It was essential for me that the film be shot on location in Cuba using a Cuban cast and great efforts were made to find actors that were from the regions depicted in the film. Navigating the political landscape and being limited to scarce resources on the island were worth the trouble to create a uniquely authentic film told from a Cuban American’s perspective. Piel Canela is about an exile who returns to Cuba hoping to reconnect with a daughter she left behind twenty years before. Through a series of flashbacks we experience her first love and discover the reasons behind her actions. I was joined by a Cuban American actress, two American cinematographers, and a latina costume designer, but hired the rest of the cast and crew in Havana. It was a beautiful experience collaborating with Cubans on the island to bring forward a universal story of hope and reconciliation.
Michelle Salcedo, named Best New Filmmaker of the Year in 2020 by NFMLA, is an award winning writer/director with over 20 years experience in the entertainment industry. Michelle strives for authenticity, drawing from her Latinx experience and achieves a nuanced representation of the Latin American diaspora in her storytelling. Her filmmaking style is highly cinematic, influenced by auteurs like Kieslowski and Iñarritu. Born in Miami, of Cuban and Ecuadorian descent, she moved to New York to attend Columbia University and graduated with a B.A. in film studies. She worked at Miramax Films producing theatrical trailers for over 30 films including Academy Award winner, “Chicago” and “Gangs of New York”. She’s edited over fifty episodes of non-fiction T.V. for networks: Bravo, TLC, VH1, MTV and Univision. Her directorial debut, “Piel Canela/Cinnamon Skin” shot on location in Cuba, started its festival run in 2019, so far winning seven jury prizes including “Best Produced” at the Academy-qualifying Holly Shorts Film festival and an audience award at the Chicago Latino Film Fest. She wrote and directed a feature, “Woman of the House”, a female-centric dramedy, currently in post-production. By creating compelling, character-driven work in TV and Film, Michelle hopes to empower future generations of filmmakers to express their unique visions.