Dominican Today reviews a new film directed by Dominican director José María Cabral, the 2022 Perejil [Parsley], which centers on an episode in the Dominican Republic’s “dark, xenophobic and racist past,” what is known as the Parsley Massacre.
Dominican director José María Cabral reconstructs the massacre of Haitians ordered in 1937 by the dictator Rafael Trujillo in his most recent feature film, “Perejil,” with which he returns to the “dark, xenophobic and racist past” of the Dominican Republic. But, unfortunately, their tails [sic] persist, as he told Efe.
The feature film, whose world premiere will take place this Sunday at the Miami Film Festival, brings to the present the genocidal order to carry out the so-called “parsley massacre” and does so through the eyes of Marie, a young Haitian woman near gives birth and married to a Dominican.
Trujillo (1891-1961) ordered his troops to eradicate the Haitians residing in Dominican territory, especially in the northwest of the country, on the border with Haiti, for which, and hence the title of the film, the victims through the word “parsley,” because in the Creole language the letter “r” has a different pronunciation.
“It was a xenophobic and racist order,” says the young director about the execution that took place in the first days of October 1937 and for which, in pursuit of “whitening” the population, as Cabral points out, even Dominicans even died, black or mulatto. Cabral points out that one of the reasons for having filmed “Perejil” is that the massacre is not a “discussion topic” in schools today and that in his country it seems that “there is no interest in understanding how bloodthirsty the dictatorship was.” de Trujillo,” whose figure still has a few followers. “There is an idea of being able to hide our xenophobia, of not wanting to see that dark, xenophobic and racist past that was breathed at that time and still exists, although not at the same level. It has to do with not wanting to see ourselves and our past”, said the young director.
TALK ABOUT THE PAST TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT
In Cabral’s film, which will be the fourth of his filmography to be screened at the Miami festival, the action takes place in the town of Dajabón, bordering Haiti and where Dominicans and Haitians coexist harmoniously.
“It is a community that works,” and that “in those years they coexisted and lived” without hatred in between, which usually comes from political leaders,” highlights the director, in whose film the characters speak Spanish and Creole. He is confident that “Perejil, “which awaits a tour of international festivals before its commercial premiere in the Dominican Republic, can spark “a healthy dialogue, a lofty debate” in his country in order to “start talking about these issues and understand the present.
He sees “very dangerous” in that sense a kind of “micro-Trujillism” that is felt in the Caribbean country, made up of a “small group” with “Trujillist attitudes and thoughts.” However, he points out that there has been a “slow process” towards greater democracy in the Dominican Republic in recent years. In order for the viewer to understand the “human tragedy” behind the genocide portrayed in the film, Cabral decided to appeal to “something as vulnerable as a woman trying to give birth on the night of the massacre” in Dajabón, a character played by the actress Haitian Cyndie Lundi.
“One of the best I’ve ever worked with and one of the best Caribbean actresses I’ve ever seen,” says the director, exhausted, about his protagonist, whom he had already recruited for a role in his previous feature film, “Hotel Coppelia” (2021), which also has the Trujillo dictatorship as a background.
THE “BOOM” OF DOMINICAN CINEMA
“Perejil” is one of the films that make up the “Dominican Quintet,” the sample that the Miami Film Festival, which opens next Friday, March 4, has included in its programming to highlight the recent boom in cinematography in the Caribbean nation. In addition to Cabral ‘s film, the selection includes four other films, some of them premieres in the US- “Candela,” by Andrés Farías Cintrón; “Carajita,” by Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola; “A film about couples,” by Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada, and “Dossier of Absences,” by Rolando Díaz.
Cabral points out that the current “boom” of national and international cinema being shot in the Dominican Republic has its origin in the film law enacted in that country in 2010 to stimulate audiovisual production and that, among other things, has allowed the leap of an average of two feature films produced a year to almost twenty today.
[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for additional links.]
Director: José María Cabral
Duration: 1 hr 25 min
Languages: Spanish, Haitian Creole
More film reviews:
Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/movies-news-reviews/article258963518.html