In the ghettos of Leticia Tonos Paniagua’s titular city on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic, tensions between the country’s local population and the thousands of largely illegal Haitian immigrants and refugees living there is at an all time high. It’s against this backdrop that this 2013 TIFF selection decides to set a modern day Romeo and Juliet styled tale of forbidden love, only it’s race that’s keeping the lovers apart instead of outright status.
In an effort to raise money to return his deported mother to the DR, teenager Janvier (James Saintil) takes a job with his neighbourhood’s local Dominican drug kingpin (Leonardo Vasquez) to keep an eye on his teenage daughter (Akari Endo) in the wake of recent threats made by an overzealous law enforcer (Jalsen Santana). The two begin a star crossed love affair that’s put into jeopardy by her all too eager to snitch and hopelessly petulant ex-boyfriend (Yasser Michelen).
Paniagua might spend a tad too long actually getting to the point of her story, but the uneasy dynamic between the Dominican and Haitian population of the island lends the film and air of electricity that helps to keep things exciting and snappy. Saintil and Endo are well matched lovers, but as with any staging of this time honoured love story, the film belongs to the ancillary characters, with Santana’s demented and gleeful NARC and Michelen’s calculating cry baby walking off with the whole production. (Andrew Parker)
Friday, February 14th, 5:00pm, Carlton Cinema