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IFF Panama: ‘Cocote’ Probes Religious Conflict in the Dominican Republic

Vying for pix-in-post Primera Mirada prize

Backed by a patchwork of international film funds from as far afield as Qatar and Germany, Nelson Carlos de los Santos’ latest drama, “Cocote,” explores the dichotomy of religion in his native Dominican Republic. In “Cocote,” a devout protestant gardener goes home to attend the funeral of his father, gunned down by police. To bid his father farewell, he’s forced to participate in the pagan rites of his village and avenge his father’s murder.

Participating in the 6th IFF Panama pix-in-post program, Primera Mirada, “Cocote” has a documentary feel to it, given De los Santos’ documentary experience (“Santa Teresa y otras Historias”) and the presence of only three actors among a cast of non-pros.

“I prefer working with non-actors; we rehearse for some six months, and shoot for four weeks; it’s almost like preparing for a play,” he said. A script is only used to provide structure as he guides his cast to tap their own experiences to flesh out the dialogue. “There is no improvisation; they come up with the lines I want, then they memorize them; some can’t even read,” he said.

“We’d like to think of “Cocote” as a hybrid,” said producer Fernando Santos Diaz, who listed funding sources to include Ibermedia, the World Cinema Fund, and Qatar’s Doha Film Institute, which extended $30,000. It also won one out of only two grants provided by the Dominican Republic’s limited annual film fund, FonProCine, for the sum of $100,000. Germany’s Pandora Films boarded as a partner to enable them to tap the World Cinema Fund.  Argentina’s Nabis Film Group (“One Sister”) co-produces “Cocote” along with Santos’ Guasabara Cine, which is prepping “Papa Liborio,” a biopic by Nino Martinez Sosa about Dominican revolutionary hero Olivorio Mateo, aka Papa Liborio, who was killed by U.S. Marines in 1922.

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