In most probably the sales agent deal of 2016 Ventana Sur, Vicente Canales’ Film Factory Ent. has picked up worldwide sales rights outside the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to Jose Maria Cabral’s Sundance 2017 World Cinema Dramatic competitor, the prison-set drama “Carpinteros” (“Woodpeckers”).
Written, directed and executive-produced by Cabral (“Jaque Mate,” “Detective Willy”) at Santo Domingo-based outfit Tabula Rasa Films, “Woodpeckers” sparked a bidding war among sales agents – involving four, three from Europe, according to buzz – after its Dec. 1 industry screening at Copia Cero, the new section of Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur Latin American market.
A story about star-crossed love with a social underbelly, set in the Dominican Republic’s Najayo prison, the film tells how cons Julian and Yanelly develop a love relationship through sign language, despite being separated b 150 meters and dozens of guards, and being in jail, at the Republic’s Najayo men and women penitentiary facilities. Julian has to win her love. But another of his major challenges is to keep this love a secret.
Cabral, who went daily to the Najayo jail during the nine months he spent in developing the script, also used the film to explore social issues.
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“I wanted to portray reality, that’s why many of the actors were actual prisoners and many of its officers actual prison officials who work in the penitentiary,” Cabral said.
He added: “If I have a scene where there is a breakfast ,we shot at the breakfast, I didn’t manipulate the breakfast, I didn’t create any big production design. The film is very much based on what the prison gave to me,” he added.
“I think main distributors can release this film theatrically in every part of the world. The market is trying to find these kinds of films. Something fresh, different, the kind of movie that can be released in all the independent circuits in Europe and other parts of the world,” Canales told Variety.
To finance “Woodpeckers,” Tabula Rasa Films benefited from attractive tax-driven investment incentives the Dominican Republic put in place in 2010, said Omar de la Cruz, director-programmer of the Dominican Global Film Festival..
Dominican production has grown fast. Some titles break out to significant audiences at home. The first Dominican film to screen at Sundance, a hot and Ventana Sur and now Film Factory pick-up, “Woodpeckers” reps the beginning, it is hoped, of a new era fir the Dominican Republic’s film industry: That of international recognition.
John Hopewell and Jamie Lang contributed to this article