Relatively speaking, the film industry in the Dominican Republic could be politely described as ‘under-developed’. Indeed, the country is better known for the ‘foreign’ films which have been filmed there (Apocalypse Now, Jurassic Park, Godfather Part II) than its own productions. Much of their output is largely forgettable, but there are a few exceptions; such as Sand Dollar, La Gunguna and Jean Gentile. Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias’s new film Cocote is one of the best to emerge from the sovereign state.
Alberto (Vicente Santos) has moved to the capital and works as a gardener for a rich family. When his father dies, he returns to his rural impoverished hometown to attend the funeral. Despite being a modern Christian, Alberto has no option but to participate in traditional religious rites which he disagrees with. He discovers that his father was murdered by Martinez (Pepe Sierra), an important local man and member of the police. Gradually, Alberto realises that he’s expected by his family to avenge the death.
Cocote is an enthralling film about religion, family and tradition which mixes cinéma vérité and gritty realism to produce a slippery hybrid. De Los Santos Arias shoots in a mesmerising range of styles, formats and angles, contributing to blurring the lines between observational documentary and tense thriller. This confusion of reality and fiction is exacerbated by using a largely non-professional cast. Cocote is a startling and eye-catching glimpse into a side of the Dominican not normally seen abroad. A dark and rather absurdist drama.
Cocote is in cinemas from 27 July.