Cocote (Melbourne International Film Festival)
Vincente Santos, Yuberbi de la Rosa, Judith Rodriguez Perez
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…a singular, challenging take on faith and revenge.
Dominican Republic drama Cocote hones-in on Alberto (Vincent Santos), an Evangelical Christian gardener who is forced back from the Dominican Republic to his home town, to honour the death of his father.
As it becomes clear to Alberto that the death wasn’t pure accident, the faithful man is faced with his family’s wishes for him to revenge his father’s murder – a ritualistic practice.
Stifled by the dilemma of whether to act or not, the circumstances force Alberto to face his beliefs.
It is a familiar story, a tale of revenge, and how far will a man go to defend his family?
But what separates this take from others, and elevates it to another level, is the form it is told in; the devices, looks and shapes it plays with. On the surface a simple parable of virtues, director Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias mixes divergent aesthetics; different film stocks, aspect ratios, black and white, colour, documentary footage, and music pieces to create a cohesive whole – a visual, ethnographic portrait of a town consumed by corruption as much as anything else.
A 15-minute argument at a river, filmed beautifully in wide shot, is contrasted against reality TV footage of local residents arguing over an animal, which is said to be holy.
A 10-minute scene of the protagonist, and a corrupt police officer arguing at a bar, is framed wide, jarringly, with only a minor character in focus.
Whilst such techniques may be challenging, and put viewers at arm’s length, de Los Santos Arias largely uses them successfully to portray the distances between those in the small town. The separation is something you feel.
Cocote is a film which makes no attempts to conform to expectations; a singular, challenging take on faith and revenge.