Opening 17 Jan 2019
Yuli, the son of an African God, is the nickname given to Carlos Acosta by his father Pedro (Santiago Alfonso). Born 1973 in Havana, Cuba, of African-Hispanic parents, Carlos lives extremely poorly with his large family, but enjoys life on the street with rap, hip hop, and hanging out with friends. Pedro, perceiving one chance for his son to receive some kind of an education, and, even better, one good meal a day, signs him up for dancing school. Carlos can’t imagine anything close to ballet, “wiggling his backside and being called a faggot by his friends.” The film follows Carlos’ progress as a young boy (Edlison Manuel, Obera Núnez) and, later, as a teenager and an adult (both roles played by Carlos Ascota himself). Life goes on: his mother, who can pass for “white” goes to the USA with one of his sisters; schizophrenia is a family problem; his father faces a jail sentence; a young boy dies in a motorcycle accident. Although ballet was never his goal, we see him grow into a talented dancer, accepting jobs with the Houston Ballet, as well as travelling to Switzerland, Spain, and England. Eventually, he becomes the principal dancer with the Royal Ballet of London and the first dancer of black heritage ever to star as Romeo in Romeo and Juliette.
This docudrama is based on the autobiography No Way Home by Carlos Acosta. He plays himself as an adult, we see him preparing younger dancers in Cuba for roles in a ballet he has choreographed. I viewed the film during the 2018 Filmfest Hamburg, and the Passage cinema was totally sold out; viewers were willing to sit on the floor to see this film, which thrills not only ballet fans, but also anyone interested in true-life success stories. Perhaps someday Acosta, who has just been named the head of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in England, will come to Hamburg. England isn’t that far away. (Becky Tan)