Cuba is a country so close and yet so inaccessible to visit. Director Lucy Mulloy cracks the door quite a bit to give the filmgoer a view of life behind the wall that the U.S. government has erected by restricting travel to that island nation.
Surrounded by the layered life in Havana and the pressured friendships of three young adults, Raul, a young man bristles at the limitations of life in Cuba as he dreams, and plans, and later constructs with his friends a raft to bring them to the U.S.
Shot on location, the city of Havana is a very realistic set for Mulloy’s narrative film. Details of Cuban life and the energy of primarily non-professional actors frame a story line that takes you into the lives of those struggling to survive and youths’ yearning for more.
In his blog, J. Hoberman observes that the film’s cinematography imbues Havana with “seductive, shabby glamour.” By watching this film, one feels that you are visiting/have visited Havana while equally moved by the plight of the characters.
Thirty-two-year-old Mulloy is British-born and first visited Cuba after her education at Oxford. “I got off the plane; I had never seen anything like this,” she said. Within a year, she was in film school at NYU, and then returned to Havana, to find her non-actors and train them. The film, which is her NYU thesis film, was six years in the making from concept to completion; it took about 42 days to shoot.
The director’s lens is focused on realism–the struggle for survival–so consuming. In this film, one almost never sees anything remotely uplifting except for the depth of the relationships of the characters.
In New York, when actor Dariel Arrechaga, who plays Raul, was asked about this raw view of life, he matter-of-factly said, “This is how it is.” Both he and the director feel this fiction film shows the truth.
Dariel’s main concern during the shooting was “am I doing this right?” And, he was assured that he, this neophyte actor was doing fine. He wants to continue acting.
The Cuban government read and approved the script. When it came time to travel to the Tribeca Film Festival, obtaining travel documents were no problem for the three lead actors.
In the realm of “art imitates life” and more, two of the actors never made it to New York. After arriving in Miami to change planes to New York, the two actors Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre and Javier Nuñez Florian, who play twins Lila and Elio, veered off to “go shopping.” That was on April 19 when they were ‘missing in action,’ presumably defecting.
Dariel Arrchaga continued to New York participating in the screenings and interviews and was present to receive the Festival’s “best actor” award to be shared with the absent Javier Nuñez Florian.
The day following the awards ceremony, the two emerged and gave an interview on Spanish TV in Miami. They said they were remaining in the United States, confirming their defection. They have been staying with de la Rua’s uncle. The actors were 15 years old during the filming, five years ago, and became a couple. The entourage traveled for a film screening in February to the Berlin Film Festival, but it was when they received the invitation from the Tribeca Film Festival they thought about defecting. Both want to pursue a career in acting.
The screening of this director’s debut film was overshadowed in part during the festival by this sensational news. This side story is like the plot in the film of youth yearning for something more and has now it too has become a part of the story of “Una Noche.”
The film garnered several awards. Mulloy was recognized as “best new narrative feature director” and the film also received the “Best Cinematography Award” along with the “Best Actor Award” shared by the two Cuban actors.