Wavelengths

Cocote

Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias

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Dominican filmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias explores the lurking violence, corruption, and class conflicts in his homeland through the tale of a gardener whose tense return to his country home is compounded by the fact that he is expected to avenge his father’s murder.

Dominican filmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias presents a layered, abstract portrait of his home island in his latest film, Cocote. Using a crime as a starting point, de los Santos Arias explores the lurking violence, corruption, class conflicts, and many opposing cultures and world views co-existing in contemporary Dominican Republic while evoking the avant-garde sensibility of Glauber Rocha.

Evangelical Christian Alberto works as a gardener on a wealthy estate in Santo Domingo. When his father is murdered, he returns to the countryside of his childhood for the funeral. There, Alberto clashes with his sister, whose very different beliefs — those practiced by the lower classes on the island, a holdover from pre-colonial times — triggers a tense homecoming. Compounding Alberto's anxieties, his family expects him to avenge his father's death.

Shot on 35mm, Cocote offers a rich visual and sensory experience as de los Santos Arias intersperses formats and textures, ethnography and abstraction in the universe of his film. The soundscape is just as precise, juxtaposing sounds from the tropics — insects, birds, sea, wind — against religious chants and Alberto's nagging family members. Melding fiction with a documentary feel, de los Santos Arias' resonant feature signals the emergence of an urgent, unique voice in Latin American cinema.

DIANA SANCHEZ

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