Last Friday, I recommended Una Noche as one of my must-see films for the opening weekend of the Tribeca Film Festival. The film, set in Havana, Cuba, follows the day in the life of three Cuban youngsters in their plight to escape Havana for the greener American pastures of Miami. In the film, the three principles take to the ocean in a homemade raft and spend a full day and night in the water as they row their way to an unknown fate. This past weekend, I had a chance to meet the film’s director and one of her stars only to find out the premise of the film had turned into a reality.
I asked Dariel Arrechaga (who plays Raul in the film) what he thought about Cuba and living in Havana, specifically. “I love Havana,” he said with a beaming smile. “There are a lot of things about Cuba that I wish would be better, but I love Havana. The people are amazing; it’s a beautiful community.”
Arrechaga speaks little English. In person he is quite tiny but fully embodies everything that defines a pretty boy. There wasn’t a single blemish on his face. Physically, he is very fit but moves around with the anxiousness of a boy on his first day of school. It struck me as interesting that he would speak so highly of his home—growing up, I’d been sort of conditioned to believe that everyone living under communist regimes would simply hate it, and prefer to live in America or a similar Western-democratised nation like it. Arrechaga was high on his hometown. So I asked him if he ever considered taking the steps his character took in attempting to flee Cuba. Arrechaga shook his head. “Two of the other cast members have defected,” he said, “but I don’t think I could do that. If I came here, I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Lucy Mulloy, the film’s director, lamented on the recent developments surrounding her star cast members. Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre (who play Elio and Lila, respectively) both disappeared after missing their connecting flight from Miami to New York. They are both 19, Arrechaga is 21. “It’s a tricky situation,” said Mulloy, “but it happens.” According to Mulloy, no one had been in contact with Florian or de la Torre as of Sunday. “When I visited Havana I was instantly drawn to how vibrant the city was, but at the same time you hear all of these stories of people risking their lives to escape.”
Arrechaga said that though he planned to return to Cuba, he feared his travel status would be in serious jeopardy in light of recent events. “I think [Cuba] would make it very hard for me to leave again. That’s life.”
WRITER'S NOTE - Special thanks to Vanity Fair Spain’s Beatrice Barral who graciously stepped in and translated for me on Arrechaga’s behalf.