Films from the Dominican Republic are a rare thing, but films like Cocote are even rarer. The story of Arias’ film, which can be seen as an unusual combination of Glauber Roche and Robert Bolañ, begins in Santo Domingo where his hero Alberto works as a gardener in a luxurious mansion. After receiving the news of his father’s death, he goes to his village to take part in the rituals of mourning known as Los Mysterios, which combine Catholicism and voodoo and are contrary to his Evangelistic beliefs. Since his father was murdered on the order of a local big man to whom he owed money, Alberto must face the family’s desire for vengeance. Therefore, in such a situation he is not able to play a neutral role forever and decides to act, and this includes a machete. Arias’ intuitive film does not worry too much about aesthetic cohesion, balancing somewhere halfway between trance, ethnographic doctrine and pure fiction, in which extras collide with professional actors in a hallucinant blend of film archives and fanatical camera movements that include diegetic sound, extremely long cadres and cadres shot in 360 technology. Grained TV shots become anthropological artifacts in the author’s inventory of mythical island identity in which religion and class become its raison d’etre. That is why Arias sees a film as a medium to which some spirits address themselves.
Translation: Martina Klarić
Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias was born in Santo Domingo in 1985. He studied film in Buenos Aires and at the Edinburgh College of Art where he started making experimental films. His master’s degree piece, Santa Teresa Y Otra Historias (2015), won the Georges de Beauregard award at the prestigious FID in Marseilles. He also made two prominent short films – Le Dernier des Bonbons (2011) and Lullabies (2014). Cocote is his debut feature film and it was declared the best film of the Signs of Life in Locarn.