On Thanksgiving Day in 1999, 5-year-old Elian Gonzalez was rescued by a fisherman in the Miami waters. The boy and his mother were fleeing communist Cuba by raft when it sank. His mother, like many who make the dangerous journey, did not survive. Gonzalez lived with relatives in Miami until he was taken at gunpoint by federal agents. The issue sparked international outrage, heavy political debates, and opened up a dialogue about immigration. Then, like so many media sensations, people forgot about it. As of last year, Gonzalez had turned 18 and has still living in the communist country. The much debated incident has died down, largely because a tidal wave of other public concerns have emerged since 1999. Yet thousands of Cubans still make the treacherous voyage to Miami aching for the betterment that the U.S promises.
In 2010, a Cuban man was discovered dehydrated in a Styrofoam floating device in the Florida Keys. He had been at the mercy of the poorly crafted vessel for nearly a month. Events such as this are what inspired Lucy Mulloy to write and direct Una Noche (One Night). The film follows three teenagers who face typical adolescent difficulties such as bullies, parental spats, and crushes. For Elio, life is somewhat harder. Not only is he gay, he's also in love with his co-worker Raul. To further complicate matters, Raul has engaged in some mild flirtation with Lila, Elio's twin sister. When Raul learns some disturbing truths about his mother, it sets off a slew of unfavorable incidents. He is wrongly accused of assault and faces jail time.
Eilo is determined to help the man he secretly loves and helps him build a raft to Miami. To say more would ruin the carefully planted thrill of mystery that Mulloy employed. Una Noche provides an alternate perspective on the issue of immigration that is seldom explored. The dialogue is natural (much of it was improvised) and the story is brilliant. The film has taken home a number of Tribeca Film Festival honors and will no doubt bring about new found awareness.