Lucy Mulloy’s debut feature “Una Noche” is an ambitious tale of three Havana street kids dealing with oppressive conditions in Cuba. Central to the narrative are some interactions with the Cuban police, who work tirelessly to shield the sight of Havana’s street life from the city’s tourists and have it out for the film’s main characters from the beginning.
The film is narrated by the young woman, Lila (Anailin de la Rua de la Torre), the least audacious of the three, and in her storytelling, she focuses on her love for her twin brother, Elio (Javier Nuñez Florian), who is developing a clandestine friendship with a much more rebellious young man, Raul (Dariel Arrechada).
Raul and Elio hatch a plan to head for Miami after Raul gets caught up in the life-threatening injury of a tourist, and soon enough, Lila finds out and invites herself along. The film’s third act serves up a tense journey as the trio spends a night attempting the 90-mile journey north.
The film delves into never-before-documented hidden corners of Havana and is a magnificent cinematographic contribution to stories of Cuban exile. “Una Noche” and director Lucy Mulloy have received support from Tribeca Film institute’s All Access Fund, the Tribeca Film Festival’s Emerging Artist Award, and the Gotham Awards’ Women Filmmakers Grant.
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The director and the film’s young stars, all of whom were cold and impressed with the city’s architecture in their first trip off of their native island, spoke with Indiewire about the making of the film.
I know this film took you a long time to finish, and it paid off in the end. How did the film evolve?
Lucy: I grew up in London. I went out to Cuba initially, and I was blown away by the architecture and stories that people told me about leaving. I was very kind of taken with Havana and I had never seen it on film before. I applied to go to NYU, and I started doing shorts. I wrote a short script about these three kids leaving, and my producers told me I had to make it.
I said, “Let’s make a short on video over one summer.” It took longer and we started casting and doing location scouting and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. We got a sponsorship from Kodak so we could do it on 35mm film, and we got a camera sponsorship. It just turned into something much bigger.
Everyone in like when are we gonna be done, when is the film gonna be finished? From having the idea to today is like six years, so it’s been a long time. I got mad at them every time they cut their hair and he’s got a tattoo now and stuff, so I was like, “[Shoot!] I can’t do anything else!” People stopped believing that we were really making a film.
Who do you all hope sees the film?
Dariel: Everyone was asking for a disc of the film. In Cuba, if you put a film out, everyone will bootleg it immediately. I got over feeling embarrassed about answering people when they were asking “Where’s the film?” I just said, “It’s not ready!” It was for the best.
Lucy: We want to present the film in the Cuban Film Festival. Everything’s cool with Cuba. They’ve seen the film. We’re entering it into the Havana Film Festival. That would be cool to show it to a Cuban audience, who can really understand what’s going on in the film.
Javier: I hope the whole world sees the film.
Dariel: My dad, who plays the chef in the film, my brother, all of my friends, so that they can see what I’ve been working on. I want Cuban people to see it because they’ll really like it. I’m happy that people have been accepting the film.
Analin: I want the whole world to see it, and I want my friends to see it in Cuba, so they don’t think it was all a lie. I want people in Cuba to see it as well, so it can open doors for them and allow them to act. We all really loved acting. We found something we enjoy doing, and we want to do more of it.
How did you to come to this story?
Lucy: It was talking to people and also a lot of the story developed when I was in Cuba working with these guys. Working with organizations. I had a very defined idea of what the story was. Incorporating different stories from real life and different locations. Really just incorporating stuff to make it richer when I was there.
How did you find your actors? The three leads are great.
Lucy: Initially, I went through normal routes, trying to get people through a casting agency there, acting schools and theater groups, and I found that most of the people were trained for theater, so they were kind of acting quite big, and a little bit exaggerated maybe.
I basically made the decision that we needed to go on the streets and meet with real people. We had a casting event every weekend, and there were always long lines of people, down the hall or down the block. We did improvisations with everyone. We found a lot of people through that process, extras and stuff.
Was there anything that made you all uncomfortable about acting at first?
Javier: While shooting on the sea, it was really cold.
Dariel: Everytime I got into and out of the water, my pants were so heavy. They were really hard. We had to act like we were in the summer, but it was actually the winter, and it was really cold. It felt really good in general, because everyone was working for me, asking me what I wanted and if I wanted a rest. The other two actors helped a lot. We worked really well together. We fed off each other.
Analin: It was uncomfortable for me when we were doign the rehearsals and we had to pretend to swim and jump into the sea. It was like my school, to learn on the floor how to act…and to swim!
Have you all become close after the past two years?
Analin: We didn’t know each other, and now we’re like best friends.
Dariel: We fight, but they’re brother and sister [in the film]– we’re all family!