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Thursday, August 22, 2013

An Interview with Lucy Mulloy, Writer/Director of UNA NOCHE

Lucy Mulloy on the set of UNA NOCHE
Photo courtesy of IFC Films/Sundance Selects

An Interview with Lucy Mulloy, Writer/Director of UNA NOCHE 

by Joshua Handler

Lucy Mulloy, a 33 year-old British filmmaker, has her first feature film, Una Noche, arriving in NYC theaters and on iTunes tomorrow.  Mulloy, a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Film Program, has lived in Cuba for the past decade and won the Best New Narrative Director award at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.  Today, I had the opportunity to talk with Ms. Mulloy about her film.

Una Noche follows the story of three people, twins Elio and Lila, and another young man, Raul, who attempt to escape Cuba.  The film is “inspired by a true story” and actually is largely true, according to Mulloy.  The last third takes place on a raft when the trio attempts to escape and that is the portion that Mulloy said was based in fact.  A young kid told her the story that became the basis for her film.  Three people, two young men and one young woman, attempted to escape on a raft.  The girl got her period and because the men were afraid it might attract a shark, they pushed her overboard.  They eventually floated back to Cuba.  Now this is not a spoiler for the film, as most of what I just described is not what transpires in the film.  This story was just the launching point for Mulloy who adapted the story to the needs of her screenplay. 

Una Noche is a seemingly critical view of Cuba, but that wasn’t Mulloy’s intention.  She wanted to make an honest portrait of the country.  She said that it is a country of many layers and that she never meant the film to be critical.  Surprisingly, Mulloy had no problems with the Cuba government with regards to shooting in Havana.

Una Noche was originally supposed to be a short, but eventually turned into the feature that exists today.  Mulloy estimates that she saw 2,000 people before casting her lead three.  Dariel Arrechaga, Raul in the film, was found in his schoolyard and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, Lila, and Javier Núñez Florián, Elio, were cast later.  Mulloy was drawn to Florián’s natural acting ability, but said that he was uncharacteristically shy at his audition. 

Mulloy shot the film on 35mm film.  This proved to be a rewarding process, but one not without its challenges.  Because there is no processing lab in Cuba, some film was flown up to Toronto but was accidentally put through an x-ray machine, which gave Mulloy a scare.  Luckily, the footage was okay.  Mulloy quipped that the film stayed in a nice air-conditioned hotel room while the crew stayed in not quite as nice a place.

Una Noche was made through heavy collaboration, something that NYU stresses.  With regards to her time at NYU, Mulloy said, “You’re just experimenting and getting to know yourself and finding your own voice, and I found that amazing in such an incredible way to just take an intro into filmmaking.  That was really where I…learned how to put a movie together.  And film school was also incredible because…when you’re on a student film set, you kind of have to do the makeup and the clapperboard and move the lights, and everybody kind of does a bit of everything, and this very much DIY mentality of ‘if no one else is going to do it, I’ll just do it myself’, and that’s kind of the principle that we all got together and we started making this film on…”

In April 2012, Una Noche premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.  However, Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre and Javier Núñez Florián defected when they arrived in Miami.  Mulloy said that the two, a couple, ironically are expecting twins (their characters are twins in the film) and are happy and would like to continue acting.  They and Arrechada give astounding performances in Una Noche, their acting debut (Florián and Arrechada shared the Best Actor prize at the Tribeca Film Festival).  

According to Mulloy, there have been quite a few Cubans at screenings around the world who have been very moved by her portrait of their struggles.  Most of the people Mulloy has met in Cuba have known people who have tried to escape or have tried to escape themselves. 

Una Noche is a wonderful film (my review will be posted later) and is a fascinating tale focused around a subject rarely discussed in America.  Una Noche opens in New York (IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) and will be available on iTunes tomorrow, August 23.  It opens on September 6 at the Sundance Cinema in LA.

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