Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias
Dominican Republic, Argentina, Germany, Qatar
Signs of Life Award
Following the critical success of his first film, the unclassifiable Santa Teresa y otras historias, Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias returns with another gem of rebellious filmmaking. His signature approach, a deliberate anarchy of formats and alternation of colour and black & white, is somewhat curbed here with a perennial narrative of murder and the pursuit of justice. Cocote follows Alberto (Vicente Santos), a gardener for a rich family in Santo Domingo, as he returns to his hometown after hearing of his father’s murder. Upon arrival, he discovers that his sisters expect from him to participate in the mourning rituals of the Nine-Nights. In this Southern region of the country, where traditions have developed around both Catholic and African elements, which differ on the forms of faith; hence, the evangelical Alberto sees the rituals as superstition. To complicate matters further, his hot-tempered sisters demand that he plays his part as the surviving man of the family and avenge their slain father. But the murder is anything but banal: brutal, ordered by an influential man and perpetrated by an old acquaintance. A sneaky, “let it go if you don’t want more blood shed” vibe that leaves Alberto increasingly conflicted. A soundtrack made of Dominican rhythms soar as the filmmaker lets scenes play out and mounting tensions reverberate.
By Aurélie Godet