Sands Films screening: Yuli , Tues 21 September 2021, London and online

In collaboration with Cuba Solidarity Campaign North London and London Socialist Film Co-op, Sands Film Studios presents a special screening of ‘YULI’ a feature documentary film (released April 2019) with and about Carlos Acosta. Carlos himself will send a special message for the presentation.

Tuesday 21 September 2021, 8-10pm. Booking essential.

To book tickets to watch the presentation in person at Sands Film Studios follow this link

To book tickets to watch the presentation online follow this link

Venue: Sands Film Studios, 82 Saint Marychurch St, London SE16 4HZ

About the film

Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story is directed by Spanish director Icíar Bollaín (Take My Eyes, Even the Rain), written by British writer Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) and produced by Andrea Calderwood and Juan Gordon.

Based on Acosta’s autobiography No Way Home: A Cuban Dancer’s Story, the film follows his formative years in Cuba as dancer, his move to London and his relationship with his father, his family and his country.

The cast includes Acosta playing himself and introduces Edilson Manuel Olbera playing Carlos as a boy, Keyvin Martinez, who plays Carlos as a young man, and Santiago Alfonso as his father.

Yuli is the nickname given to Acosta by his father, Pedro. From a young age, Yuli fled any kind of discipline and education; the streets of his Havana barrio were where he learned to breakdance.

However, aware of his son’s natural talent, Pedro forces him to attend Cuba’s National Ballet School. Against his will and despite his initial lack of discipline, Yuli ends up being captivated by the world of dance, winning prestigious competitions and went on to become principal dancer with the Royal Ballet in London, dancing the first black Romeo where he forged an acclaimed 17-year career until he retired in 2015 from classical ballet. 

Carlos Acosta now has his own dance school and company based in Havana, Acosta Danza, which has toured the UK and elsewhere. He was appointed director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January 2020. [Catch his latest show this November ‘Curated by Carlos’.]

Yuli won the Best Screenplay Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2018.

Watch a trailer for the film Yuli here

Read a review of the film here

Review of Yuli The Carlos Acosta Story
Reading Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta’s autobiography ‘No Way Home’ you get a sense of the sadness at the heart of his story, that when you leave your home, you are never quite able to return as nothing stays the same. This is despite the warmth and gentle humour of Carlos and his family and friends, despite his incredible achievements in ballet especially in Britain such as playing the first black Romeo when with the Royal Ballet. Being based on the book, what more could the film say?
What is special about this brilliant film is that we get an insight not just into Carlos’s life, but into what makes him tick – the joy (and pain) of dancing itself.
The Spanish director Icíar Bollaín has said that Acosta gave her a lot of freedom, but he insisted he wanted it to be a dance film.
The ‘construction’ of rehearsals of a fictional dance performance reflecting chapters in Carlos’s life – the play within the play – works well as another means of communication and brings some electric dance sequences, by members of AcostaDanza, Carlos’s ballet and contemporary dance company choreographed and sometimes performed by Carlos himself. Mario Sergio Elías, who performs the Acosta character in the fictional dance work stands out for his expressive technique.
Also within the main story there are some stunning long shots of whole dance sequences – where it feels the filmmaker has stepped back and let the dancers shine. Without giving too much away, the scene of the turning point at school when Yuli realizes he actually can love dance will make you smile.
But it is not just for dance fans…the depth of the drama and emotional themes of family responsibilities, struggles and conflict, are just as strong. When we see the family glued to the TV in Havana watching the teenage Carlos win his gold medal for his ballet performance at Prix de Lausanne and Acosta’s dad calls to the neighbours “Yuli’s won the World Cup!”, we feel the pride. British screenwriter Paul Laverty (also wrote ‘I, Daniel Blake’) won a Goya award for the writing and the quality shows. He does not ignore the tragedy and loss in Carlos’s life nor the hardship of ‘special period’ Havana, nor the racism of some Cubans or of the ballet world in Britain.
There are some great characters. Santiago Alfonso’s performance as Pedro, Carlos’s dad looms large in the film, despite him being a flawed and conflicted character. Although the actor who plays the very young and very cheeky Carlos is a star in the making.