Huffington Post: Life Imitates Art: When Cuban Actors Defect
Did the actors follow the script too closely? In the film Una Noche Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre play a Cuban brother and sister who set out from Havana on a rickety raft. They bob up in down in dangerous waters. Along with another teen, they have escaped Cuba hoping for a better life in the United States. In real life, the story seemed to play out in a similar fashion. Anailin and Javier disappeared after their plane landed in Miami last week. They were on their way to join the film’s director, Lucy Mulloy, at the film’s New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. They appear to have defected. Was life imitating art? Already the strongly anti-Castro Cuban press in Miami has trumpeted the case of Javier and Anailin as the latest example of Cubans willing to risk their lives to escape Communism.
At a recent screening of the film in New York, I asked Mulloy about her reaction to the news that her actors had gone missing. “I was shocked and surprised,” she told me. “I was looking forward to seeing them at the film’s premiere and they were excited about coming here.” Another reporter asked if she had heard from the duo in the last few days. “No I haven’t,” she replied softly. Javier and Anailin were first time actors whom Ms. Mulloy handpicked from many hopefuls to play the parts of Cuban teens Elio and his twin sister, Lila. “We saw hundreds of teenagers but they stood out,” she said. Ms. Mulloy also selected Daniel Arrecheda, 24, who plays the part of Raul. He forces his friend Elio to choose between his own escape and abandoning his sister, Lila. Ultimately Lila learns about their plot and insists on joining them as they flee.
The latest Cuban real-life drama took me back to 1980. As a young Latin-American correspondent, I covered the Mariel Boatlift for CBS News. Between April 15th and October 31, 1980, as many as 125,000 Cubans made the journey on crowded boats from the Cuban harbor of Mariel to Florida. For many years before that, Cubans facing oppressed conditions and a worsening economy fled on inner tubes — just like the protaganists of the movie Una Noche. I remember being in Havana and witnessing angry pro-Castro mobs shouting insults outside the homes of Cubans they suspected were on their way to Mariel. “Escoria,” they shouted. “Que Se Vayan!” (“Scum! Let Them go!”) According to published reports, in the weeks leading up to the Mariel boatlift, as many as 10,000 Cubans sought to gain asylum in the Peruvian Embassy. It was then that the Cuban government announced that anyone who wanted to leave Cuba could do so. The exodus on boats — dispatched from Cuban exiles in Florida — started soon after that.
In the movie Una Noche , the character of Lila begins to menstruate causing sharks to circle their inner tube. Lila holds on tightly to her brother and friend Raul. Mulloy said her compelling film was inspired by a true story she heard from an 11-year old on Havana’s famed seawall El Malecon. In 1999 and 2000, when I traveled to Cuba as a private citizen, I recalled seeing dozens of teenagers playing in the waves that washed up over the seawall. Their energy and enthusiasm, despite living in a country of worsening shortages and limited opportunities, is captured beautifully in Una Noche. So is their desperation…..Read More
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