Shot on location in vibrant Havana, Una Noche is a heartrending drama chronicling one day in the life of Cuban teenagers trying to escape to Miami. The directorial debut of British filmmaker Lucy Mulloy, Una Noche won the Best New Narrative Director and Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature Film at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. After volunteering at the festival last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a screening and Q&A with Mulloy, cinematographers Trevor Forrest and Shlomo Godder, editor Cindy Lee, and one of the lead actors, Dariel Arrechaga, on Sunday.

Having never seen a film about Cuba but having heard news stories over the years about Cuban refugees, I was intrigued to see a film that delved so deeply and freely into the heart of Cuban life and the struggles of its people. The coming-of-age drama follows two siblings, Elio and Lila, played by Anailin de la Rua de la Torre and Javier Nuñez Florian, and Elio’s friend, Raul (Arrechaga) as Elio and Raul make a last-minute decision to flee the island by raft. The acting is superb by all three, who had no  acting experience prior to appearing in this film, and Nuñez Florian and Arrechaga won the much-deserved Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film Award for their work. Forrest and Godder’s cinematography was also breathtaking as it juxtaposed the beauty and vivacity of Cuba against the broken-down buildings and abject poverty.

I left the film feeling like I had actually been to Cuba and experienced a day in the life of Cuban refugees. In a dramatic turn of events, de la Rua de la Torre and Nuñez Florian, who are a couple in real life, defected to Miami on their way to the U.S. premiere at Tribeca and are now seeking political asylum. Unfortunately, there is no trailer available online yet, but stay tuned to the film’s official Youtube channel. Hopefully the film will get a proper release later this year.