Home is a strange thing. However much we may want to leave, we can never entirely escape that peculiar magnetic pull that draws us back time and time again. For island dwellers this conundrum is felt even more deeply, since leaving home means there will inevitably be a vast ocean separating you from your friends and loved ones, while staying home can often feel suffocating. It’s a theme that seems to have inspired the new Dominican film Bestia de Cardo, which was written, directed, edited and starred in by multifaceted first time filmmaker Virginia Sánchez Navarro.
Moira is a young Dominican woman who must return to her fictional hometown of Cardo after some time living abroad, and she soon finds herself begrudgingly caught up in the petty melodramas of the provincial aristocracy to which she belongs. Plagued by mental illness, Moira quickly falls back into the stifling, patriarchal dynamic of small town life as her family tries to recover their honorable name following a corruption scandal.
It’s sort of like if you took all the quirky comedy out of Garden State and mixed it with the aristocratic family ties of The Godfather. To tell this story, Sánchez Navarro adopts an unconventional, rectangular aspect ratio for the cinematography which combined with her use of medium shots and tight close-ups serves as a visual metaphor for the claustrophobia Moira experiences as she navigates the oppressive familial and cultural environment of Cardo. While the film isn’t entirely free from imperfections — namely heavy-handed lighting and stiff performances — one must applaud Sánchez Navarro’s ambition, and perhaps advise her to delegate a bit more in the future.
Bestia de Cardo is playing the Dominican Film Festival in New York which runs June 24 – 28, 2015. Visit the festival’s site for details.