Acosta with Edison Manuel Olvera during shooting of the film in Havana, with Spanish director Iciar Bollaín looking on. Photo: Denise Guerra Photo: Granma

The long-awaited biographical film about dancer Carlos Acosta will face its first test during the San Sebastián Film Festival, at its 66th edition in this Basque city, this coming September 21- 29.

Produced by the Spanish director Iciar Bollaín (Te doy mis ojos) the bio-pic entitled Yuli, is based on the great dancer’s memories recorded in the book No way home, published a decade ago.

The filmmaker had the support of a script by her Scottish companion Paul Laverty, who has worked with Ken Loach, and a team that included Acosta himself and Cubans Laura de la Uz, Andrea Doimeadiós, Santiago Alfonso, Carlos Enrique Almirante, and Yerlín Pérez. The dancer as a boy is portrayed by Edison Manuel Olvera, and as a teenager by Keyvin Martínez.

When he was young, Acosta was called Yuli, thus the movie’s title. He reached the stage in his formative years after years of rebellion and vocational disinterest, during which his father, central to the protagonist’s development, pushes him to follow his own dreams.

Bollaín was captivated by the opportunity to take Acosta’s story of rising to international fame to the screen. For her, Acosta’s experience was exactly the opposite of the well known story of Billy Elliot.  While, in Stephen Daldry’s film, the English boy born into a community of miners was intent upon dancing despite the opposition and prejudices of his people, in real life – and in Bollaín’s work – a Cuban boy enters the world of dance reluctantly.

“Ballet began as a prison for him, but it later served as a refuge, and in the end, his liberation,” the director said, emphasizing the importance of taking the story to the big screen.

The production involved parties in Spain, Britain, Germany, France, and Cuba (ICAIC) and was shot in Havana, London, and Madrid.

Bollaín was also interested in Acosta’s relation to his native country, and how an international star - with a career as a first dancer with the Houston Ballet, the English National Ballet, and the celebrated Royal Ballet, in England - never lost his identity or sense of belonging.

Years back, in a televised interview, Acosta said, “I’m a boy born and raised in Los Pinos, and this is the essence that defines me; these are my roots. The day I lose this, is the day I lose who I am as a human being.”


The company founded and directed by the dancer, Acosta Danza, will present a brief season in Havana’s Alicia Alonso Gran Teatro, August 17-19, as part of the capital’s summer cultural program.

The choreography Satori, an exploration of Zen Buddhism by the young Cuban Raúl Reinoso, will have its world premiere. The staging includes designs by

Ángelo Alberto from Curacao, lighting by Italy’s Fabiana Piccional, and score by Cuban composer José Gavilondo Peón,  who studied with maestro Juan Piñera at Cuba’s University of the Arts.

The program is completed with Impronta, by Spanish choreographer María Rovira; End of Time, by Briton Ben Stevenson; and a version of De punta a cabo by Alexis Fernández, with images conceived specifically for this performance by composer and audiovisual artist X Alfonso.