To describe La fiera y la fiesta (Holy Beasts) is to risk making it sound both tamer and much more outlandish than it is. Directed by husband and wife team Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, this Dominican Republic-set film follows Vera, an aging actress played by Charlie Chaplin’s daughter, Geraldine Chaplin, who returns to the island to direct and star in a project written by an old friend of hers whom she wants to honor. The friend in question is real-life DR filmmaker Jean-Louis Jorge, who’s known for his 1970s queer projects which mixed exoticism, vampirism, and a fascination with Hollywood and showbusiness. As Vera recruits old friends of Jean-Louis and newcomers alike, she finds herself in what seems like a cursed production that eventually includes a mysterious disappearance, choreographed musical sequences, and yes, even a vampire.
The film is a surreal trilingual ode to the experimental work of this famed Dominican director that had, as Cárdenas shared at Los Cabos International Film Festival, first began as a documentary on Jorge’s life and work. “It all started as an homage to Jean-Louis. And we got started through Luis Ospina, in a way, who’d studied with Jean-Louis. Once we got in contact with him, he started sharing a lot of stuff about Jean-Louis. It all pointed toward creating a documentary. We had loads of archival materials: We had texts and photos, unfinished scripts, music.”
Instead, La fiera y la fiesta was born, a film that would try to channel Jorge’s sensibility. Helping them along was not only Ospina but Jaime Piña, two filmmakers in their own right who had personally known Jorge. Not only did they both take on acting roles in the film (as cinematographer and producer, respectively, of Vera’s ill-fated project) but they served as consultants throughout that helped steer their pastiche of a project so it would keep Jean-Louis Jorge’s spirit alive.
This conversation has been translated from Spanish by the author for Remezcla.
La fiera y la fiesta screened as part of Los Cabos International Film Festival.