Costa Rica: The Switzerland of Central America. A country known for its solid economy, thriving tourist industry, lack of standing army, and generally lighter-skinned population. But given all this positive publicity, some may be surprised to know that Costa Rica has a dark side – both literally and figuratively. Yes, on the margins of the country’s otherwise enviable standard of living are the primarily Afro-descended inhabitants of the country’s Caribbean coast. Concentrated in the southern province of Limón, the majority of Afro-Costa Ricans owe their African roots to an influx of Jamaican immigrants to region in the late 1800s. This population has suffered from years of institutionalized discrimination and neglect, to such an extreme that local leaders recently proposed seceding to become part of Panama.
Yet despite the material limitations and endemic poverty that characterize the region, Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is excessively rich in natural and cultural beauty. This contradictory reality was the point of departure for first-time director Patricia Velásquez and her collaborator Oscar Herrera when they sat down to write the new feature Dos Aguas. The story dramatizes one young adolescent’s fraught decision to help his family by flipping a few keys of some illicit substance, only to mix up his whole family in the violent aftermath.
Before making the film, the San José native spent years acquainting herself with the the small coastal community of Puerto Viejo, where social ills like drug trafficking and prostitution have become popular, thanks to a growing tourist industry. Finally, after two years of casting and development, Velásquez and Herrera shot the ambitious feature using non-actors and incorporating real life stories from the region to keep things authentic.
Dos Aguas’ trailer showcases the film’s stunning camera work, lilting tropical rhythm, and evocative multi-layered soundtrack, while giving us a sense of the sympathetic, naturalistic performances from pre-teen leads Ismael Brown and André Devoto. Dos Aguas premiered earlier this year to audience acclaim at the Panama International Film Festival, before continuing its festival tour and kicking off a run in Costa Rican theaters. Keep an eye on the film’s Facebook page for a screening near you.