Along the lines of Music of Silence – this is a docu-bio-dramatization of Carlos Acosta’s life. There is wonderful dance, from a child to the man. If ever there, you will especially enjoy revisiting La Habana and seeing old haunts.
The genius in the film is in how each section feeds each other, and indeed needs each other (the dance comments on the drama, and vice versa), and produces a wholly original and deeply affecting movie.
This isn’t one of those biopics that rearranges a life to hide the ugly awkward bits.
Yuli is the nickname given to Carlos Acosta by his father Pedro. From a young age, Yuli fled any kind of discipline and education; the streets of a run-down neighbourhood in Havana was where he learned most of his schooling. But Pedro knows his son has natural talent and forces him to attend Cuba’s National Dance School. Against his will and despite his initial indiscipline, Yuli ends up being captivated by the world of dance, and from childhood he will begin to forge his own legend, as one of the best dancers of his generation, often breaking taboos and becoming the first black artist to dance Romeo in the Royal Ballet in London, where he forged a legendary career as a principal dancer for 17 years.
It’s basically a reverse of the Billy Elliot story, as it’s his dad Pedro who drags Carlos kicking and screaming to Havana’s state ballet school to get him off the streets. The teachers instantly recognise this cocky kid’s natural talent. But Carlos is not convinced – he’d rather be playing football than flouncing about in tights.
But ballet is his ticket out of poverty, but his loneliness at being separated from his family is agonising, even as he notches up accolades… What’s perhaps surprising given the insider involvement from Acosta is the film’s insight and emotional generosity.
Spain/Cuba 2018, 111 min, rated M (mature themes & coarse language)
Directed by Icíar Bollaín
With Carlos Acosta, Santiago Alfonso & Keyvin Martínez