Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Rare is the film from the Dominican Republic, for sure, but even rarer is a film like Cocote. Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias’ fascinating opus, made under the dual signs of Glauber Rocha and Roberto Bolaño, begins in Santo Domingo, where Alberto works as a private gardener. Alberto learns his father has died—killed, actually, by a powerful man from his hometown—and he crosses the country to participate, against his will (as he’s evangelical), in the death rituals of Los Mysterios, a sect that mixes Catholicism and West African beliefs. While home, he must also deal with his family’s desire for revenge, which he likewise rejects.
Intuitively shot with little regard for aesthetic cohesion, Cocote constantly shifts between different film stocks (including moving from colour to black and white) and camera styles (360-degree pans, ultra-long takes), while scenes are, at some points, ethnographic documentary ritual recordings, and, at others, pure fiction acted by a mix of nonprofessionals and professionals dutifully trained to act like nonprofessionals. Somehow, this all works swimmingly—including the inserts of TV news features on wild local animal tales—and the dynamic montage lives up to the director’s aim to craft a new kind of "mulatto" filmmaking, something highly grounded in the Dominican ethos.
Best Film, Signs of Life Section, Locarno 17