Cocote review – Vudú rituals and violence in docu-realist drama | World cinema

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The title means the neck of an animal in the slang of the Dominican Republic. A neck you are about to break or cut. Sacrificial violence is all around in this very intriguing film, an award-winner at Locarno, directed by feature first-timer Nelson Carlo de Los Santas Arias. There is a palpable, intentional artistry in it – though its one that makes the film challengingly opaque. There are deadpan jump-cuts, disquieting musical stabs, switches of film stock and changes from colour to monochrome, and fixed camera positions forcing us to gaze for long periods at something other than the important character speaking somewhere out of frame. In the climactic scene, in fact, the camera wheels away from the main action. This all does convey an all-important dislocation and alienation.

Vicente Santos plays Alberto, a devout Christian employed as a gardener in a wealthy family home in the capital, Santo Domingo. He gets some days off work to go to his hometown of Oviedo, in the remote south of the country, to attend what he understands will be his father’s funeral. To his astonishment, he finds on arrival that the funeral is over and his family now expect him to participate in voodooistic rituals of cathartic hate for the man who killed him – a police officer – and then, simply, to take revenge.

As a Christian, Alberto is revolted by all this, but gradually his family’s fanaticism begins to get to him. Long stretches of the film show various intense and mesmeric ceremonials, shot in a docu-realist reportage style with what are surely non-professionals. (The director’s background is in documentary.) The movie is topped and tailed with a weirdly disturbing shot of the wealthy family’s luxurious outdoor swimming pool, seen at various times of the day. It is a film with its own miasma of unease.

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Source: The Guardian
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