Upset by the 18th Havana Film Festival New York’s (HFFNY) “unilateral” decision to shift his film from official competition to a special presentation instead, Cuban filmmaker Carlos Lechuga has completely pulled his political drama “Santa & Andres” from the fest.

“When we agreed to grant the New York premiere of “Santa & Andres” to the HFFNY, we did so based on specific participation terms that were negotiated between both parts,” Lechuga said in a statement.

“Those terms cannot be modified unilaterally. After being confirmed in more than 30 film events worldwide, the decision whether or not to screen our film in a festival that does not consider us worthy of joining the list of select titles in its main competition slate is totally ours to make,” he stated in a declaration signed by himself, his producing partner Claudia Calvino and his sales agents Alfredo Calvino and Patricia Martin of Habanero Film Sales.

The response came after the festival’s non-profit founding org, the American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (AFLFC), issued the following explanation for its decision: “As cultivators of cultural diplomacy we try our best to remain as apolitical as possible and avoid controversy. We believe that, given the highly-politicized publicity surrounding “Santa & Andres,” it would be a conflict of interest to include it in competition for the Havana Star Prize.”

In December, though initially selected, “Santa y Andres” did not screen at the 38th Int’l Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana after it was rejected by fest backer ICAIC, Cuba’s state-run film institute, for its storyline on an unlikely friendship between a gay novelist under house arrest and the revolutionary peasant woman sent to keep an eye on him.

Lechuga’s Cuban-Colombian-French co-production recently won both Best Ibero-American Fiction Feature and actress for Lola Amores and a Premio Maguey Special Mention for male lead Eduardo Martinez at the recent Guadalajara Int’l Film Fest, which wrapped March 17. A week before, both leads picked up a Best Performance award at the 34th Miami Int’l Film Fest which announced its winners on March 11.

The HFFNY runs from March 30-April 7.