"Una Noche" is documentary filmmaker Lucy Mulloy's first feature film and also her graduate thesis.
The film tells the story of three Cuban teens — brother and sister Elio and Lila, along with friend Raul — who embark on a journey from Havana to Miami on a makeshift raft after Raul is wrongfully accused of a crime.
"I think I did everything that film school told me not to do."
The film was shot entirely in Cuba, and stars Cuban teenagers who had no acting background. It has received accolades — including at the Tribeca Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival — for its authentic depiction of life in the Communist country.
Mulloy's professor and mentor, Spike Lee, has also given the film his stamp of approval, although he was skeptical at first, Mulloy told Here & Now.
"I think I did everything that film school told me not to do: shooting on the water, shooting with animals, with young people who had never acted before," Mulloy said. "All of that in addition to making it in a country with an embargo."
When "Una Noche" premiered at the Havana Film Festival, Mulloy said that what was initially one screen for 200 viewers turned into multiple screens with 2,000 spectators. Riot police were even called. After the film festival, the movie was banned in Cuba.
Mulloy says she was "devastated" when the film was banned, but was humbled by the Cubans' interest in her film.
"It was really important to me that the film would feel real and organic and authentic to a Cuban audience," Mulloy said.
She thinks the film will appeal to American audiences as well.
"Everybody comes to a movie with their own different perspective," Mulloy said. "My objective when I'm making a movie and presenting characters [is] that people can empathize with their story and engage with them and their journey. That's all I can ask for, really."
After the movie came out, life imitated art for lead actors Javier Núñez Florián and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, who played twins in the film and have since become a couple: The pair decided to leave Cuba and live in the United States.
- Lucy Mulloy, director of "Una Noche."
This segment aired on September 16, 2013.