A striking lest-we-forget tale suffers from unstriking treatment in Javier Balaguer’s docudrama “Natives of the Night,” an uninspiringly stolid take on the horrors inflicted on the Dominican Republic by the 30-year dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Though good-looking throughout and featuring some evocative poetry by Dominican poet Pedro Mir, which gives the pic its title, this rarely probes beneath the surface of the already known. Tube sales look likeliest for what feels more like Horrors of Dictatorship 101 than anything more substantial.
Docu shuttles back and forth between re-creations of Trujillo’s in-car assassination and a potted history of the Dominican Republic as told through three stories: Mir, whose verse provides an abstract running commentary; exiled politician and writer Juan Bosch, who became president following Trujillo; and, most movingly, tragically beautiful activist Minerva Mirabal, who, with two of her sisters, was clubbed to death by the monstrous Trujillo. (The fourth sister is one of the few people interviewed for pic.) Balaguer brings real flair to some of the re-creations and makes judicious use of some terrific stock footage and its music. But pic can never quite shake off its ploddingly methodical air.