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Before Night Falls (2000)

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The life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas.

Director:

Julian Schnabel

Writers:

Cunningham O'Keefe, Lázaro Gómez Carriles (as Lazaro Gomez Carriles) | 3 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Olatz López Garmendia Olatz López Garmendia ... Reinaldo's Mother (as Olatz Lopez Garmendia)
Giovani Florido ... Young Reinaldo
Loló Navarro Loló Navarro ... Reinaldo's Grandmother
Batan Silva ... Reinaldo's Father (as Sebastián Silva)
Carmen Beato Carmen Beato ... Teacher
Cy Schnabel Cy Schnabel ... Smallest School Child (as Cy)
Olmo Schnabel Olmo Schnabel ... Smallest School Child
Vito Schnabel Vito Schnabel ... Teenage Reinaldo (as Vito Maria Schnabel)
Pedro Armendáriz Jr. ... Reinaldo's Grandfather (as Pedro Armendáriz)
Diego Luna ... Carlos
Lia Chapman ... Lolin
Sean Penn ... Cuco Sanchez
Jerzy Skolimowski ... Professor
Aquiles Benites Aquiles Benites ... Translator
Ewa Piaskowska Ewa Piaskowska ... Pretty Blonde Student
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Storyline

Episodic look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), from his childhood in Oriente province to his death in New York City. He joins Castro's rebels. By 1964, he is in Havana. He meets the wealthy Pepe, an early lover; a love-hate relationship lasts for years. Openly gay behavior is a way to spite the government. His writing and homosexuality get him into trouble: he spends two years in prison, writing letters for other inmates and smuggling out a novel. He befriends Lázaro Gomes Garriles, with whom he lives stateless and in poverty in Manhattan after leaving Cuba in the Mariel boat-lift. When asked why he writes, he replies cheerfully, "Revenge." Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

poet | novelist | gay | homosexual | cuban | See All (104) »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content, some language and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

New Line

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish | Russian | French

Release Date:

23 February 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Antes que anochezca See more »

Filming Locations:

Mexico See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$85,230, 25 December 2000

Gross USA:

$4,242,892

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$8,601,053
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Javier Bardem's first English speaking role. See more »

Quotes

Reinaldo Arenas: What do you want?
Cuban Police Officer: What do I want... First of all, I want Carlos to frisk this guy.
Reinaldo Arenas: But he's not even dressed.
Police Officer: What's your name?
Reinaldo Arenas: My name? Franz Kafka.
Police Officer: Hm. You think I am ignorant?
[Reinaldo shakes his head]
Police Officer: Have any of you ever heard of a Camp called La Isla de Joventud?
[Everyone declines]
Police Officer: Then maybe you can tell me, when's the last time you took it up your ass.
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK version is cut by 18 secs to remove a shot of a live bird caught in a noose. See more »

Connections

Featured in Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Adagietto, Sehr Langsam
from Mahler's Symphony No. 5
Written by Gustav Mahler
Performed by Berliner Philharmoniker
Courtesy of Universal International Music, B.V.
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Many praises for a movie about freedom and artistic expression
10 February 2001 | by Preston-10See all my reviews

Before Night Falls is a brilliantly devised and executed account about the famed Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas. The film documents his childhood as a peasant, his support for Castro's rebels as an idealist youth, and as a man, his struggles, not just as an independent thinker but also as a gay man living in Communist Cuba. Throughout the film we respond to his hopes, fears, and claustrophobia as we witness the persecution of a true artist.

As a student of Latin American History and Literature I was pleased with the way the film handled the historical context of Arenas' time. The political context of Before Night Falls shouldn't come as any surprise. The artistic, social and political invisibility of gays in Cuba under the Cuban Revolution represented a dark stain on the revolutionary record. In 1965 Fidel Castro told Lee Lockwood (in Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel) that `we would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true communist militant. A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must be' In the mid-1960's, the infamous UMAP work camps (Unidades Militares de Auyuda a la Producción) sought to rehabilitate what they perceived as alleged antisocial elements. This is an event that is accurately depicted in Schnabel's film. The purges and denunciations of homosexuals continued into the 1980's. Today in Cuba discrimination against gays still represents a major problem. The revolution dealt with gender and racial discrimination but not with discrimination against gays. This is all documented with stunning use of archival footage and reference accounts from Arenas' autobiography.

Any review of the film would be incomplete without mentioning Javier Bardem's work. I have seen a lot of movies and few performances are even in the same league as Bardem's. I was fascinated with how he carried this film with a performance that must have been very difficult for him to adjust to. The supporting work by Johnny Depp should also be praised. His dual performance, for me, accurately identified how many within Castro's army may have used their positions as a front to deny their own sexuality as well. Overall, I was very impressed with this film and I highly recommend it


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