Domestic violence, child trafficking, Caribbean myths, cyber terrorism and psychological thrillers were among the weighty subjects presented at the Dominican Republic’s June 25 online pitching sessions during Cannes’ virtual Marche du Film.
Some projects, however, were inspired by the millions of tourists that visit the country each year and one took on the COVID-19 lockdown that has forced families and friends to share confined spaces for months.
The pitching sessions were preceded the day before by the DR Film Commission’s pitch to detail the country’s generous incentives and let it be known that it was opening for business on July 1, albeit with health and safety protocols in place. Film Commissioner Yvette Marichal led her team that included lawyer Boni Guerrero and Manuela German who fielded legal and technical questions. They were joined by Pinewood Dominican Republic Studio/Lantica Media COO, Albert Martinez, who expanded on the horizon water tank facility’s amenities, which will include a covered water tank in the future. When asked how developed the audiovisual industry is in DR, Martinez said he points out that 30 to 35 local features and 10-15 sizeable international projects are made each year in the country.
Among the various local projects pitched on Thursday were “15 Hours” from director Judith Colell who seeks to shed light on domestic violence among the upper classes. In the drama, a young violinist married to a successful orchestra conductor seems to have a perfect life of art, fame and wealth, but she hides the fact that he mistreats her.
Psychological thriller “The Final Act” also takes place in the world of art, in this case, ballet, where a renowned dancer’s dark past comes back to haunt him as he prepares to resume dancing, three years after a car accident. Writer-director Christopher James Lopez, said he was able to trim $1.3 million off the budget when he changed the setting of his drama to the Dominican Republic.
Some filmmakers pitched multiple projects. Jose Gomez de Vargas of Emporium Media presented four projects, all of which are seeking co-production partners. A standout among them was “What Lurks in the Shadows,” which turns on a foreign landowner whose murdered fiancée returns in the form of a Ciguapa, the Dominican succubus – a female demon – to avenge her own death.
Francis Disla described his mythical creature film “Xiguapa” as “Predator meets Apocalypto” where a DEA agent finds himself hunted by a beast with an acute sense of hearing.
“Fronteras, Una Historia Jamas Contada,” directed by Mexico’s Francisco Vargas (“El Violin”) and produced by Disla, Jalsen Santana and Leticia Brea, takes on real events surrounding the aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, which left some 250,000 dead and millions displaced, including many children who lost their parents. “Fronteras” turns on a journalist sent to investigate the disappearance of some children in a refugee camp. Drama is in post and is seeking a sales agent and distribution.
At least three projects explore the challenges of sharing spaces: “Convivencia,” “A Family in Quarantine” and “Posada,” which revolves around tourists whose lives intersect at an inn.
Bradley Bixler’s “Hotel Paraiso,” set in a beachside resort, is a study of contrasts between the tourists and the people who silently work to make their holidays perfect. In it, a Haitian immigrant who fled Haiti after the earthquake, is forced to deal drugs when his job at a hotel doesn’t yield enough for him to support his family.
In “Capotillo,” a man released from jail is unable to make it in normal society, so he turns to drug dealing and eventually becomes a powerful drug lord.
Taba Blanchard’s cybercrime thriller, “The App,” takes place in multiple countries, with desert scenes shot in DR standing in for Afghanistan. With some scenes filmed at Pinewood DR Studios, “The App” turns on a hacker who creates an app that makes him the target of spy agencies bent on seizing control of it.