History of Cinema in DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Historical overview

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic forms the eastern two-thirds and Haiti the remainder, was originally occupied by Tainos, an Arawak-speaking people. In 1930, Rafael L. Trujillo, a prominent army commander, established absolute political control. In November 1961, the Trujillo family was forced into exile. In June 1966, President Balaguer was elected and ruled on off until 1996. In June 1996, Leonel Fernandez Reyna was elected to a 4-year term as president. In May 2000 Hipolito Mejia was elected to a 4-year term as president.

History of cinema from 1896-2000

On the 27th of August of 1900, Francesco Grecco made a public exhibition of the Lumiere cinematograph in the Dominican Republic, in Port Silver and brought the seventh art to the Dominican Republic. In Santa Domingo demonstrated movies on the third of november that same year. In 1915 the Puerto Rican cameraman, Rafael Colorado, shoots the first moving pictures in the Dominican Republic, Excursión de José de Diego a Santo Domingo.

The starting point of a national cinema "cine Dominicano" is usually set to 1923 when Francisco Arturo Palau filmed La Leyenda de Nuestra Señora de Altagracia. Followed by Las emboscadas de Cupido and the documentary La República Dominicana, both shot in 1924. In the theater Independencia in Santa Domingo, in 1927, the first exhibition of sound and cinema takes place, floowed by the film "Luchy Boy" appears, with built-in sound.

In 1930 the dictator Trujillo frustrated all attempts to develop a national film industry. He considered this a threat to his power and only allowed films celebrating the regime. The first talky, the use of sound in a movie, made locally was a newsreel about the inauguration of Trujillo in 1930. His long period of reign, unitl 1960 has left the Republic without a film industry, the screens are still dominated by Hollywood productions. The most significant work from this time was a string of 13 related documentaries about the 13 ministries of the government produceds by Rafael Augusto Sánchez Sanlley, under the direction of Cuban filmmaker Pepe Prieto. The documentaries showed images of poverty and starvation opposed to the exorbitant wealth of the rich establishment led by Trujillo. As a result, Sanlley was captured, imprisoned and tortured. His company "Cinema Dominicana" was dismantled, Sanlley and his coworker Clauco Duquela never left the prison again. Oscar Torres, a local filmmaker, returned to the island in the early sixties, after Trujillo lost power. He studied cinema in Italy and after his return he produced the first works of a Dominican that received international acclaim. In close collaboration and supported by the Cuban film industry he made Tierra olvidada" and Realengo 18, both film won prizes in the film festival circuit.

In the years following the demise of Trujillo, he was executed on the 30th of may 1961, most films were about the regime years. Most notably, Hugo Mateo, who had worked with Sanchez Sanlley, produced "30 de mayo: gesta libertadora", consisting only of footage shot by Sanlley. In 1963 the dramatist Franklin Domínguez directed "La Silla", showing the horrors of the "Trujillato". This is the first full feature shot entirely on the island. "La Oficina de Promoción Social (OPS)" produced he Office of Promocio'n Social (OPS) of catholic direction also made in 1966 "Tu tambien", a documentary about the miserable conditions of the population.
Despite the vindictive nature of the Trujillato towards the production of local films, the regime was very aware of the impact of cinema on the crowd. During his ruling a log of cinema's were built with low ticket cost, so the population could escape from daily life easily. The death of the tyrant landmarked a new beginning for Cine Dominicato.

The young Dominican producer Jean-Louis Jorge filmed "La serpiente de la luna de los piratas", winning a prize at the festival of Toulon, in France. Later, in 1975, he presented another quality production "Melodrama". The filmmaker Group CINEC, directed by Jimmy Sierra, produced several documentaries in 1975 based on the Dominican social reality: "Primero de mayo", by Jimmy Sierra; "Pescadores", by Edison Rivas and "Caen los remos", de Carlos Figuero. In 1977 Adelso Cass, who studied in the USSR, made several productions in Russia, after he returned to Santo Domingo, he produced "El niño y la noche". In 1978 the CINEC group produced several works, amongst these are "Viacrusis" and "Siete Dias con el pueblo" both by Jimmy Sierra; "Rumbo al poder" by Jose Bujosa Mieses and "Doce años de Balagueron" by Antonio Guzmán Fernandez. Another small group of directors, calling themselves "Cine militante" produce "Crisis".

The National Film library was established in 1979, under the direction of Agliberto Meléndez. The institution seized to exist during the reign of Balaguer in 1986 and only recently plans have been announced to re-open the institute. The producer Peyi Guzmán makes the important "Carnaval y caretas" (1981), a documentary about folclore Dominican. That same year, Martín Lopez and Max Rodriguez present "Lumiantena". In 1984 the first all Dominican film of quality was released, "Pasaje de ida" by Agliberto Meléndez. It showed how people tried to flee by boat to the United States, hoping for a better lifew. The film obtained several international prizes. The biggest box office hit of any local production up till than, is Nueva Yol by Angel Muniz in 1994, a comedy also about the migration to the US. In recent years, René Fortunato, has rapidly become the most renowned local filmmaker. He has produced and directed several documentaries and full features, amongst which, Abril: la trinchera del honor" (1990) and "El poder de El jefe" (1991), a three part documentary movie. He won several prizes at the more prestigeous film festivals. A coming man is Claudo Chea, video director of "Azúcar amargo" (1995), "Piñero" (2000) and "Washington Heights" (2001).

In 2000 the first of the annual film festival of Santa Domingo was organized. The works of Armando Guareno, a local living in the US, must be mentioned. He is the director of the Latin American Film Festival in New York (La CinemaFe) and has strong ties with the festival in santa Domingo, being on of the organizing principals. He is without a doubt the most influential filmmaker descending from Dominican soil.

It seems "Cine Dominicano" is no longer a dream, but like in all of Latin America, funding remains a major problem as is the distribution of local work.

Cinema links from DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Arriba Santo Domingo Portal to the capital city, holds ticket information as well as some cinematic information
Cadena de Noticias Up to date online news site with a cinema section, totally directed at Hollywood.
Cime dot com Major local cinema site offering the latest on Dominican film
Dominicana Portal to the island featuring an entertainment section including film information
El Caribe Online newspaper including a cinema section with trailers and video release information.
Muestra de Cine Home of the Santa Domingo Film Festival
Palau site The Palau company tries to preserve all of the moving pictures concerning the island

Rene Fortunato

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