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Trapped in the desperate slums of Havana, young Raul dreams of escaping to Miami. After he is accused of assault, his only option to save himself is to flee the country. He begs his best friend Elio to abandon his life in Cuba and help him reach the forbidden land 90 miles across the ocean. But Elio is torn between helping Raul escape and protecting his twin sister Lila, and soon the trio s commitment to their homeland and their desire of starting life anew in America is put to the test. Brimming with the nervous energy of Havana s restless youth, UNA NOCHE follows one sweltering day in the crumbling sun-bleached capital, a day full of hope and fraught with tension that burns to a shocking climax.
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And when they were invited to NYC for the Tribeca film festival showing this film they didn't show up, defected!
Two main actors, who portray Lila and Elio, defected to the Unites States while en route to receive their Tribeca Film Festival 2012 Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film Award Winner – Dariel Arrechada and Javier Nuñez Florian as Raul and Elio. Interviewed on American TV, shortly after they defected in Miami, they cited the horrendous repression in Cuba, constant hunger, the absence of good medical care and the lack of opportunity for young people who want to express themselves artistically and in other ways. Dariel, the other main actor, caught by surprise by his friends' defection, had to return to the Cuban Paradise.
The protagonists in the film are Elio and Lila, who are twins and Raul who during the course of the film becomes Elio’s friend. Most of the action takes place in what appears to be the slums of Havana. I knew Havana’s slums well as I worked there as a volunteer many, many years ago teaching and helping the less advantaged. Some say that one of the greatest achievements of the Cuban Regime has been the unprecedented expansion of Havana’s slums, which are said to be nearly encompassing most of Havana. Credit where credit is due.
The film UNA NOCHE is a brilliant and robust indictment of the present Cuban regime. That is why the Dictatorship’s censors have prohibited it from being shown in Cuba. After an almost riot during the first two showings of the film in Havana the Regime felt threatened by its message. The protagonists criticize the Cuban Regime openly and the movie as a whole paints a frightful picture of life in Cuba under the Castro brothers’ sordid dictatorship.
Elio and Raul have a job in the kitchen of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, working as kitchen aids, peeling potatoes, chopping carrots, cleaning fish and the like. Their boss is a mean spirited chef.
Elio, Lila, Raul and their relatives endure a hard, hopeless life in Cuba, buried deep in poverty and strife and barely surviving. But by far the worse is the absolute absence of civil and human rights. It’s hard for us Americans to imagine what it is to live under such dire conditions, feeling that you are being watched and controlled 24/7. This extraordinary film will allow you to feel and to sense the lack of oxygen in Cuba, and how Cubans are gasping for air. Anxiety and desperation compel many to leave the island… anyway they can.
That is precisely what Elio, Raul and Lila do. Desperate, they take to the ocean, risking their lives, or better said, gambling with their lives, playing Russian roulette. The end is tragic. Sharks kill Elio and Raul is apprehended by the Cuban Gestapo upon his unwilling return to Cuban shores pushed by the relentless Caribbean Sea currents.
Many of us, Cubans, have braved such dark and dreadful nights.
For me, UNA NOCHE, was a night when the police and the paramilitary militia surrounded our home in Havana… I can still see my mother’s face and her eyes painted in horror… I remember my heart pounding, my hands getting cold and my mind going blank…
My brother and I came to the USA, just the two of us, and when we got here we had only our shoes and clothes and a small bag. But… something good happened to us. The moment we set foot on American soil we became… Americans. AMERICANS!
Everyone welcomed us; everyone helped us. Without exception. People were happy to see us. I can still see their smiles. I can still feel their warmth. And my kid brother went on to earn a PhD at MIT and after that he worked for NASA… in the space program.
I spent all my days in New York City, working in finance eventually becoming a CEO at an international investment banking firm and later, during a seven-year span, I had the privilege of serving the people of New York, when Mayor Ed Koch appointed me Controller for a unit of the City.
We, Cubans, are happy being here in America. And we are damn proud of being AMERICANS..!
If you wish to watch a more balanced and optimistic view of Cuba look up Andy Garcia’s “The Lost City” available here at Amazon.