Films to See

Una Noche
An intimate look at the complexities and contradictions of everyday Cuban life as narrated by Lila, whose twin brother Elio has agreed, after much hesitation, to rig a raft to leave Cuba with his friend (and secret love interest) Raúl. First-time director Lucy Mulloy skillfully covers an astonishing array of tough topics — from tourist privilege, infidelity, and prostitution to gay and transgender issues to disease and desperation, along with, surprisingly enough, hope and humor and sibling love, all set against the hauntingly beautiful backdrop of Havana. With its tightly cropped scenes, its nearly pitch-perfect dialogue delivered by a cast of extremely professional non-professional actors, and its stunt-like camerawork reminiscent of the opening shots of Slumdog Millionaire, Una Noche is a mesmerizing meditation on the dangerous distances people will travel in pursuit of a new life — and a new love. See my interview with the director , but wait until you’ve watched the movie to avoid spoilers!

After Cuba’s 1994 balsero (rafter) exodus, the filmmakers of this documentary began following the lives of seven survivors who settled in various cities throughout the U.S. Alternately hopeful and heartbreaking, Balseros is a realistic portrayal of the often impossible-to-overcome odds that lie beneath the glossy surface of the American Dream.

Chico and Rita
An animated depiction of life and love for a musician and a singer in pre-Revolutionary Cuba. Based on real characters.

A docudrama about the Revolution—the forces leading up to it, the aftermath of it—as well as an intimate portrait of Fidel and his personal and political struggles.

Fidel: The Untold Story
Director Estela Bravo skillfully weaves archival clips of the Cuban Revolution with modern-day interviews with Fidel and with his famous friends abroad, such as Alice Walker and Nelson Mandela. An astounding amount of history and political context is packed into just 91 minutes.

Fresa y Chocolate
This classic explores the friendship between David, a young straight communist and Diego, an older gay intellectual who is openly critical of the government.

Great Day in Havana
A documentary exploring Havana through a wide array of artists and their works and views on life in contemporary Cuba.

Habana Blues
The story of two best friends and bandmates who must make a difficult decision when one of them receives a contract offering him the opportunity to make a musical life abroad.

Retrato de Teresa
A Cuban classic from the 1970s, Retrato de Teresa is a film that was well ahead of its time in its examination and critique of traditional gender roles in post-Revolution Cuba. It tells the story of Teresa, a factory laborer and mother whose increasing involvement in extra curricular activities (specifically a work-related dance troupe) promoted by the Revolution incites the ire of her machista husband.

Suite Habana
An unusual film, which uses only ambient sound and action to tell the story of ten Havana residents going through their daily lives.

Viva Cuba
Two young friends, Malu from a wealthy, anti-Revolution background and Jorgito from a socialist upbringing, are forbidden by their mothers from playing together. When the children learn that Malu’s single mother is planning to leave the country, they set off together on a road trip through Cuba to find Malu’s father and ask him to take her in so she won’t be forever separated from Jorgito.

Yank Tanks: Carros Classicos de Cuba
This documentary examines contemporary Cuban life through the country’s classic American cars and the resourcefulness of those who have lovingly maintained them despite the shortage of spare parts.