Yuli – The Carlos Acosta Story

By 12 April, 2019

For those not familiar, Carlos Acosta, born in Cuba in ’73  into an impoverished family, is one of the most well renowned ballet dancers in history. Raise the curtains, cue the lights, and get ready to experience the rollercoaster of this icon’s life.

Directed by Icíar Bollaín, Yuli follows the story of Carlos as a young boy, young adult and in the present day in a skewed linear fashion. We are following every step of this little boy’s life and every so often, we jump back to the present with Carlos playing himself as a choreographer, putting together a show about his life. Where we jump from scenes of his past to the present, we see him reenacting that past memory in dance, guiding a dancer who’s playing the part of a younger Carlos, in the most emotive performances of the film.

The focus of it all is, obviously or subtly, derived from his turbulent relationship with his father. We see a harsh fatherly figure that is trying his best to provide for his family and push his son in the right direction, a direction that will provide him with the security and comfort he did not experience as a descendant from a lineage of slaves.

At times uncomfortable, the violence we see Carlos suffer is not only physical but also mental. Yuli shows how taxing it was, and possibly still is, for him to live with the decisions that were made for him in the past, and how difficult being sent away from his family and anything familiar was. At the same time, we see him slowly falling in love with ballet. The most wonderful scene in the film, for me, was when we see little Carlos watching a professional ballet dancer performing in front of his very eyes. He later on heads out to the same open-air stage and copies the dancer’s moves under pouring rain, and that’s when I believe, we see his breakthrough, realising what exactly he’s been working towards all that time.

It is an easy to watch film, yet also investing. As a biopic that also takes some artistic license for the sake of the film, it works excellently in spiking your curiosity to learn more about the performing arts’ first black principal dancer, conquering roles in ballet companies all around the world throughout his career.

Yuli is in select cinemas around the UK from Friday 12th April. See acostafilm.com to find a screening near you.

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