In Dominican filmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias’s Cocote, vengeance is a dish best served hot…

After being away for a long time, Alberto sets course to his native remote town, to attend his father’s funeral. Discovering, upon his arrival, he was murdered and already buried, Alberto soon figures out that, as the Man of the family, avenging duty lays on his shoulders.

A winner at Locarno International Film Festival, Cocote is a thing of beauty and sorrow as much as it is about the violent confrontation of a culture with itself. The lead is totally reluctant about the family’s expectation for vengeance. Thrown into religious cults, remote from his faith and what his new life is about (he is coming back from the city, he’s seen totally different ways of life), he must confront old demons. His standing against old pagan ways puts him in distress with his kin. He has no intentions to retaliate. Women of the family, involved with ancient traditions, are hot on his heels and try to rush him into killing, while the locals, convinced he came back for revenge, are out to get him.

With its rendition of rituals inherited from Afro Antillean rites, conflicting with belief of sole God fearing creatures (while also drawing parallels between both), Cocote illustrates a conflict within a world of anguish and affliction, of self inflicted sets of rules, either coming from law of God, law of men (carried on by the women), ancient rituals or the three mixed together. A cultural chaos.

Cocote is shaped for the viewer to practically undergo the ritualistic experience. It is where lies its force but also its weaknesses. Using a highly poetic mode of narrative with slow pacing, Santos Arias film is in equal parts an Art film,  a drama and a fictional documentary.

Thanks to Cinematographer Roman Kasseroller sure hand, the film succeeds in combining: 360-degree pans, ultra-long takes, hand held shots followed by static (but beautiful) framing of natural surroundings. The problem is they overdo these tricks and the whole film would seriously gain from some trimming.

As a spectator, we fully understand that there is a build up to express the trance aspect of the whole situation, but we also clearly see enough of it.  This doesn’t ruin the picture but it comes close to it at some point. And, sadly, some part of the audience left. Sad because it doesn’t do justice to an inspired and beautiful piece of film making.

Despite its flaws, Cocote is a beautiful Arty piece, by an obviously talented director, that is out there to be discovered.

*** Note: the film is listed at 72 mins on IMDB and other sites. The version we saw stands at 106 mins. If such 72 mins version exists, it would mean the production team already got the message…


Last Screening : October 11, 4:50 PM – Quartier Latin 10