It’s rare to see depictions of Havana that don’t consist of the stereotypes: people playing music, someone sitting on the street smoking a cigar, old American cars, stunning old buildings.
In fact, many films set in Havana (such as Our Man in Havana and even Die Another Day) are filmed in other locations, posing as Havana. Tour books of Cuba consistently say that visitors will leave with more questions than they arrived with. The ‘real’ Havana is often masked and protected by Cuba’s Revolutionary government (one of its founders, Che Guevara, had openly written about being anti-freedom of the press).
These things make Una Noche an even more remarkable and beautiful film.
Set — and actually filmed — in Havana, Una Noche is the directorial debut of UK based Lucy Mulloy. The film tells the story of two young men, Raul and Elio (Dariel Arrechaga and Javier Nunez Florian) who navigate Havana’s black market and develop a plan to set out on a raft to Miami. Followed by a protective sister, Lila (Anailin de la Rua de la Torre); rushed by a crime Raul didn’t actually commit; and motivated by a secret affection by Elio for Raul; the three rush out to sea in desperation to reach a land where hope exists – the 90 mile away Miami.
The film avoids the stereotypes of Havana while sharing very real moments that keep the viewer oscillating between amusement and distress.
“I was blown away visually by the architecture, the people the stories, and just that people were leaving on rafts and its such a crazy suicidal mission to make…” explained Lucy Mulloy in an interview at the Berlinale. “Everyone had a story about somebody leaving.”
The viewer is taken in by the tragic desperation of Havanaites. Medicine can be hard to come by, basics like soap are rationed at about two bars per year, and in a country where there is supposed to be no division of class, tourists are treated like first class citizens while locals struggle to find purpose or a future.
Evenly paced, stunning, and with three remarkable actors, the film is more than worth a watch. Since its premiering at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, the film has won many accolades, including Best Actor (Arrechaga and Florian), Best Cinematography, and Best New Narrative Director at the Tribeca Film Festival.
In a finale that extends beyond the end of the actual film, actors Analin de la Rua de la Torre (Lila) and Javier Nunez Florian (Elio) disappeared from the Miami airport last April while on route to the premiere of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival. Three days after their disappearance, they confirmed tou Reutors that they were seeking political asylum in the US, and would be moving to LA to work and try to make their dreams of acting a reality.