Bolstered by generous incentives that have sparked a production boom, Dominican filmmakers are exploring a diversity of genres, both mainstream and alternative.
Growing in equal measure are the ranks of below-the-line crew working on both local and international projects. Training programs abound for grips, lighting technicians, and so on. Pinewood DR holds workshops in underwater filming as well as in production accounting, location management, UPM, production design and set construction, among others. More film workshops and courses have been introduced at universities or technical institutes, giving rise to a new generation that have studied at home.
“My generation had to go abroad to study film, this latest crop will have a new perspective,” says Andres Farias, an assistant director on such Dominican films as “Cocote” and “Carpinteros.”
He has taught his craft at the Chavon School of Design, which will transfer its campus to Santo Domingo by September, says its film studies director Tanya Valette, who once ran Cuba’s prestigious Intl. School of Film and TV.
“It makes more sense for our students to be closer to the capital’s cultural scene and film industry,” she says.
Currently situated in the picturesque Altos de Chavon enclave about 82 miles from the capital, the Chavon School of Design will offer a two-year course in animation by 2022, the first of its kind in the Caribbean. At present, it only offers two-week animation workshops within its two-year film course. Its creation is key to reaching a critical mass of skilled animators in a country bursting with young, raw and hungry talent, who at present have no creative outlets except advertising agencies or post-production houses to hone their skills.
One upcoming project set to call on animation tools is Nelson Carlo de los Santos’ (“Cocote”) “Pepe, the Imagination of the Third Cinema.” Valette and Monte y Culebra Prods. partner Pablo Lozano are producing what de los Santos describes as a fable about the first hippo that drug lord Pablo Escobar shipped to Colombia. Prepping for the film, he has designed its soundscape and done micro shoots in Namibia and in Colombia’s Magdalena River.
Monte y Culebra is also producing Farias’ “Candela,” which has a development pedigree including La Fabrique Cinémas du Monde, Cannes 2018, Sundance Edit Residency 2019 and Sundance Music Residency 2019. It is now in post.
José María Cabral (“Carpinteros”), who’s in post on his drama about women in a brothel during the 1965 Dominican civil war, “Hotel Coppelia,” notes: “We’re seeing a greater diversity of auteur films in the country.”
The top winner of IFF Panama’s Primera Mirada competition, Tito Rodriguez’s “Rafaela” is a revenge thriller, for instance, while Tatiana Fernández Geara’s documentary “Vals de Santo Domingo,” winner of the Su Mirada post-production prize, explores the true gender-busting story of three boys in a ballet class.
London Film School grad Leticia Tonos, who has repped her country twice at the Oscars with her first two films, “La Hija Natural” and “Cristo Rey,” is exploring multiple themes from the film noir biopic “Mis 500 Locos,” which opened the DR Global Film Fest in January, to sci-fi drama “Tania, Vida & Azarias” and mystery TV series, “Hurakan.” She’s also producing the dark fantasy-mystery “Jupia,” set in a nursing home, which is going to Cannes’ virtual market.
Tonos fears that the recent shutdown may see more cash-strapped investors, at least in the short term. “We’ll need to find alternative forms of financing, such as co-productions or pre-sales to fund our films.”
DR Global Film Fest head Omar De la Cruz also sees blossoming talent and skills in the areas of production, scoring, sound and post as well as in acting. “We are cultivating the next generation that will dominate Dominican cinema in the years to come.”