Josh Crook and Manny Pérez´s “taut crime thriller” La Soga, which recently played in the Toronto Film Festival, has become the focus of kudos and attacks alike. Los Angeles Times Patrick Goldstein reports on the challenges Pérez´s team faced in producing the film, calling it “Guerrilla filmmaking, Dominican style” (the title of his article). In his description of the film, Goldstein says:
Largely shot in crime-infested neighborhoods and slums, “La Soga” is as much a meditation on the embattled Dominican culture as it is a crime drama, with the soulful intensity of such films as “The Harder They Come” and “City of God.” Set in the steamy slums of Santiago, “La Soga” focuses on an assassin employed by the government to bump off drug dealers [. . .]. In the film’s opening scenes, a hit man tracks down a drug dealer and shoots him in the head in front of family and neighborhood onlookers. According to Manny Perez, the film’s Dominican screenwriter who also stars in the movie, the sequence is based on his eyewitness account of an all-too-real life event. The article goes on to describe the real-life strategies the team used to survive the process of filmmaking itself, such as hiring the community’s most infamous machete fighter as protection for their crew.
In his follow-up blog article, “The Big Picture,” Goldstein details the charges and counter-charges involving La Soga, defending its cinematic value “even if its view of crime and corruption in the Dominican Republic has clearly hit a raw nerve.” He even offers a link to view the heated comments surrounding the thriller. People who have seen (or not seen) the film have had a visceral reaction the violence and corruption presented in the film. Although some have admired the film’s “(‘haunting and beautiful’) graphic portrait of crime in the island country,” many are angry, calling it a distortion of reality. Goldstein chooses to let Dominican-born actor/writer Manny Pérez voice his take on the attacks:
I want to make it clear that we could have never gotten the movie made without the help of the people of the local communities there. Dominicans may be poor, but they are kind and generous. They’d bring us food and make coffee for the crew. But I didn’t exaggerate anything. What you see in the movie are things that have actually happened. I think people are upset because we’re showing the country’s dirty laundry, the kind of things people want to brush under the carpet. [. . .] The rich and educated class doesn’t want someone like me to talk about the reality in the D.R. They think it gives the country a bad name and ruins its image. But they should face the reality.
I just wish people would see the film. It doesn’t say the Dominican Republic is a horrendous place. The theme of the story isn’t just about violence and corruption. It’s also about hope and redemption, about a guy who loses his innocence, but finds his heart. You know, we have an expression in the D.R. that goes, ‘Don’t try to cover the sun with one thumb.’ It means you should always face reality. And that’s what this film does. It faces the truth, but there are always people who don’t want to see the truth out in the open, even though that’s the best place for it to be.” Now we must see the film.
For full articles, see http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-bigpicture24-2009sep24,0,1156822.story and http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2009/09/la-soga-star-responds-to-attacks-on-movies-depiction-of-crime-in-the-dominican-republic.html
Photo of Manny Pérez, Denise Quiñones, Josh Crook, and Juan Fernández (by Matt Carr), from http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-bigpicture24-2009sep24,0,1156822.story