The director Icíar Bollaín presents the story of the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, a legend on the dance world and the first black dancer to perform some of the most famous ballet roles. A dancer who did not want to dance.
Yuli is the nickname given to Carlos Acosta by his father, Pedro, who considers him the son of Ogun, an African god and a fighter. As a child Yuli avoids discipline and education, learning from the streets of an impoverished and abandoned Havana. His father, however, has other ideas, and knowing that his son has a natural talent for dance, sends him to the National Ballet School of Cuba. Despite his repeated escapes and initial poor behavior, the boy is inevitably drawn to the world of dance, and begins to shape his legendary career from a young age, becoming the first black dancer to be cast in some of the most prestigious ballet roles, originally written for white dancers, in companies such as the Houston Ballet or the Royal Ballet in London.Written by
Fascinating insight into a world class dancer's life
You don't have to love ballet or dance to appreciate this fine film. It weaves dance , stunningly performed by Acosta and his co-dancers in short, riveting bursts, in with the story of his childhood growing up in Cuba and into his adjustment to being in other countries as a young adult, leading eventually to world recognition.
Acosta was pushed into dancing by his father, who was extremely tough on him and determined he should stick with a strict practice regime, but now he is grateful for that, as it led to his great passion for dance and the opportunities he later had to perform with the Cuban National Ballet as Principal Dancer and for a long period with Royal Ballet London as Principal Guest Dancer. He now has his own contemporary dance company, Acosta Danza which tours and performs internationally.
Iciar Bollain has taken risks with this unique biopic, with its blend of narrative and dance, but for me and most of the critics whose reviews I've read, it works. It just means you need to shift with the film as it moves between the different stages of his life and the actors or dancers who are portraying him at that point.
This bold directing combined with Paul Laverty's honest and heartfelt writing (he also wrote I Daniel Blake) makes for great teamwork and results in a truly compelling watch.
Just a great shame that UK distribution confined the film to a couple of special screenings (followed by excellent Q&As with Acosta, Laverty and Bollain) and a ridiculously restricted screening run at selected cinemas. Why? This film deserved much wider screening (compare it with Germany, where it was in some 95 locations!). What is happening with foreign title distribution in this country? Don't get me started....Anyway, I feel that Yuli is a film well worth seeking out - and it's not too late to lobby your local cinema!
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