Natives of the Night

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.

With:
With: Monica Sepulveda, Wilkin Abreu, Victor Checo, Rafael Alduey, Pepito Miro, Frank Perozo, Omar Ramirez, Carlos Fernandez, Fernando Rodriguez, Chistian Guthermann, Freddy Mateo, Gregorio Mendez.

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.

Natives of the Night

Spain

Production: A Fundacion Global Democracia & Desarrollo production. (International sales: Made in Spain, Santo Domingo.) Produced by Rafael Sarro. Executive producers, Jose Garcia, Anna Cassina, Jesus Garcia. Directed by Javier Balaguer. Written by Rafael Sarro.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Claudio Chea; editor, Guillermo Represa; music, Carles Cases. Reviewed at Chimenea de Villaverde Latin American Film Festival, Madrid, June 25, 2008. Original title: Oriundos de la noche. Running time: 63 MIN.

With: With: Monica Sepulveda, Wilkin Abreu, Victor Checo, Rafael Alduey, Pepito Miro, Frank Perozo, Omar Ramirez, Carlos Fernandez, Fernando Rodriguez, Chistian Guthermann, Freddy Mateo, Gregorio Mendez.

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