Screened as part of NZIFF 2019

Yuli 2018

Directed by Icíar Bollaín Music & Dance

Moving between fiction and reality, and harnessing the power of both drama and dance, Cuban ballet dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta shares his life story, from a barely interested kid to one of the greats.

Spain / UK / USA In English and Spanish with English subtitles
111 minutes CinemaScope/DCP




Andrea Calderwood
Juan Gordon


Paul Laverty
Paul Laverty. Based on Carlos Acosta’s autobiography No way home


Álex Catalán


Nacho Ruiz Capillas


María Rovira

Production designer

Laia Colet

Costume designer

Jessica Braun


Alberto Iglesias


Carlos Acosta (Carlos Acosta)
Santiago Alfonso (Pedro Acosta)
Keyvin Martínez (young Carlos Acosta)
Edilson Manuel Olbera Nuñez (Carlos Acosta, child)
Laura de la Uz (Chery)
Mario Sergio Elías (Mario)
Yerlín Perez (María)
Andrea Doimeadíos (Berta)
César Domínguez (Opito)


San Sebastián 2018


This adventurous depiction of the life and success of ballet dancer Carlos Acosta glides between childhood re-enactments and scenes of Acosta directing fellow dancers in artistically interpreted moments from his life. Director Icíar Bollaín mixes crowd-pleasing biopic conventions with a range of clever filmmaking techniques, affording the real Acosta the stage to convey his own history, expressed indelibly through the language of movement.

“This energetic, emotionally reflective movie follows the rise of the Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta from scrappy juvenile tearaway to ballet superstar… Acosta even makes an appearance, playing himself now, in Cuba to put on a show about his life – a clever move by [screenwriter Paul] Laverty to include some electrifying performances…

In a reverse of the Billy Elliot story, it’s his dad Pedro (Santiago Alfonso), who drags Carlos kicking and screaming to Havana’s state ballet school to get him off the streets – and gives him the nickname Yuli, a legendary warrior. The teachers instantly recognise this cocky kid’s natural talent. But Carlos is not convinced – he’d rather be playing football than flouncing about in tights…

Ballet is his ticket out of poverty, but his loneliness at being separated from his family is agonising, even as he notches up accolades… What’s perhaps surprising given the insider involvement from Acosta is the film’s insight and emotional generosity... This isn’t one of those biopics that rearranges a life to hide the ugly awkward bits.” — Cath Clarke, The Guardian