GFDD and FUNGLODE’s 3-Day Dominican Film Showcase Program Launched in Upper Manhattan
The Dominican Film Showcase program, an initiative of GFDD and FUNGLODE, launched on Wednesday, May 21 in New York’s Upper West Side with a screening of action drama film “Biodegradable”, superbly directed by Dominican filmmaker Juan Basanta. The screening is the first of a series of film events to take place in collaboration with Symphony Space, the Dominican Film Festival in New York and the Dominican Cultural Commission in the United States.
“Biodegradable” covers the situation in Latin America in 2031 where far reaching changes have since occurred. It is is set in a post apocalyptic future, where nations have been replaced by Projects that are managed like corporations, and neighborhoods are quadrants that are closely monitored by the supervisors of the projects led by a man named Blas. Productivity at all costs is at the core of the new society. Against this backdrop, Rosa Santos, a university student, falls in love with Daniel, another student from a lesser quadrant, much to the dismay of her mother. Rosa’s mother will stop at nothing to better hers and her daughter’s life including forcing her to marry an influential member of the Supervisors, Stefano Gravelli, a move that unleashes a series of events that will drag Rosa and Daniel into a conflict of political intrigue and danger.
The film is an adaptation of a popular and controversial Dominican Republic novel set during the dark days of the Trujillo era. Owing to the deep divisions over the legacy of the strongman in the country even forty years after his death plus the desire to make the movie more accessible and appealing to non-Dominican audiences, the story setting was moved to a time in the future. Juan Basanta labored for two years to get the financial backing to get the movie made by his own production company, Basanta Films.
The action-drama stirred opinions and points of view among an engaged audience, who were welcomed to the special opening proceedings at the special Symphony Space venue by GFDD’s executive director, Natasha Despotovic. Prior to introducing GFDD’s institutional video, Ms. Despotovic said, “The wealth of subjects and characters populating the Dominican landscape are great sources of stories and an increasing number of foreign and Dominican filmmakers are beginning to identify this fertile ground. Global Foundation for Democracy and Development aims to showcase a sample of the best films produced recently in the Dominican Republic, by Dominican filmmakers, about Dominican topics.”
Ms. Despotovic also pointed out that the film represents a major step forward for a growing Dominican film industry. Utilizing a 25 percent tax credit offered by the national government to film and video production companies– which was initiated by the country’s former President Leonel Fernández, the Dominican Republic has seen a major growth in video and film production. Film production has grown from three to five films per year, mainly for domestic release to an average of over twenty, including portions of several international productions.
Following the film, the audience was invited to participate in an animated exchange with protagonists from the film, played by actors Hemky Madera and Liche Ariza as well as the film’s scriptwriter, Marcel Fondeur, in a thought-provoking Q&A session.
One of the questions from the audience concerned the locations used in the film, because many of the scenes shown were unique. Fondeur said that, though 90% of the movie was shot in Santo Domingo, the main aim was to create a novel portrayal of the country.
Asked what had been a major challenge in making the film, the guests unanimously agreed that one of the most difficult aspects was fundraising. The script was created about 5 years ago, and the movie was shot over the period of one year, however the production team decided to wait until the Dominican film law came into force in 2011 to take advantage of its opportunities.
Dominican actor, Hemky Madera, addressed how filmmaking and storytelling is a great way of bringing people together and creating a cultural dialogue. He stated that there have been major efforts to market the film to an international audience, and the cast and crew have actively promoted quality Dominican cinema by presenting the film world-wide.
The DFS continues on Thursday, May 22 with an inspiring documentary “The Mountain” by Tabaré Blanchard and Iván Herrera, and will close on Friday, May 23 with Dominican musical “Sol Caribe”, as depicted by director Félix Limardo . The screenings, which each start at 6:30pm, present an opportunity to discuss the Dominican Republic’s civic values, traditions, and music which are fast becoming part of the cultural composition of the US and other countries where Dominican populations are present.