LETICIA TONOS, DIRECTOR OF CRISTO REY

September 3, 2013

La réalisatrice dominicaine Leticia Tonos

Your film Cristo Rey addresses the complex relationship between Dominicans and Haitians in the Dominican Republic? Why did you opt for this theme?

Haiti has been part of our society since forever, whatever happens there we feel it here, that is a fact. Contrary to what most people may think, our relationship with Haiti hasn't always been conflictive, there are so many aspects to consider. As a filmaker, I've always been kind of obsessed with exploring our identity, what makes us that thing that we call "Dominican". To find the answer to that question, it is impossible to leave Haiti out.

What does the support of the ACPCultures+ Programme provide you?

The support of ACP Cultures is not only an important financial backing, it provides as well an institutional support that allows government institutions to see the project with a different potential. That's crucial to the development of our industry. ACPCultures+ becomes a motivating agent for the Dominican government to support films that really address social issues.

You are both one of the producers and director of the film. How did you assume this dual role?

With extreme difficulty! Sometimes it feels as if I'm using different parts of the brain and to switch from one to the other is a real challenge. But they're both part of my education as a filmmaker. My producing skills have helped me tremendously when I was trying to come up with the financing of my film because I’m a woman, Caribbean, Latin and many other things not considered "mainstream"…

How did you collaborate with the other two partners of the project, Les Films de l'Astre in France and Fastforward in Haiti?

It has been fantastic for the project to have the best of our three worlds through this co-production. France does have a very long and prestigious career in cinema. Through Mr. Gobbi's knowledge of the industry and vast experience, we have been able to come up with a truly unique product, a film that is artistic, social but at the same time entertaining. This is something very difficult to achieve. We have been able to work together respecting each other's boundaries artistically and financially, not trying to make a Dominican story with an European aesthetic. We all have been extremely determined in preserving the Caribbean "regard" in Cristo Rey. Haiti is simply a mine of raw talent, the resilience and inner force of the Haitians never ceases to amaze me. It can certainly be appreciated in James Saintil's performance as Janvier.

You are the first Dominican woman to have shot a feature film: “La Hija Natural” released in 2011. What is the role of women today in the Dominican film industry?

I'm pleased to say there are a lot of women participating actively in the development of our industry, we have  a lot of women Line Producers, Art Directors and a few Directors and Producers but unfortunately, the majority of them are not at an executive level. All the important executive decisions are still in the hands of men, and that's a shame.

The film will be screened in several Caribbean countries : the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico? What do you expect of the distribution of your film at the regional level?

In the last five years, I've been actively participating in many Caribbean initiatives like C. A. N. (Caribbean Audiovisual Network) and Muestra Itinerante de Cine del Caribe. I've seen the launch of alternative distribution platforms for Caribbean content such as Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution but still it is very difficult to get us Caribbeans interested in each other's films. The language is certainly a barrier but also our extremely different backgrounds and socio-economic situation. I'd like to think that Cristo Rey will somehow overcome all these barriers and find its place within our Caribbean audiences. After all, the film speaks about two different countries, with different languages and culture, being forced by destiny to share the same space. There's a certain echo there of the situation in the Caribbean in general.

Are there practices implemented in your project which you consider as particularly positive and which could serve as examples for other cultural operators?

I would say four main elements:

- Really taking the time and effort to develop the project. Financing is a key element but is not the only aspect of it. Really developing a script, investigating each country's regulations regarding film, deep contextualization, etc. are all of great benefit to the project;

- Exploration of each co-producer's strength and designing work plan according to that;

- Decision and compromise of all parties to operate under highly professional standards. With the right information you'll realize that the new technologies will give us access to very high end tools even if your budget is not very high;

- When you don't have enough money, time can be your best ally.

(Interview realized by the technical assistance of the ACPCultures+ Programme)

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