The Dominican Republic may only measure about 300 miles from end to end, but from the snow-capped mountains of Constanza to the dense rainforest of el Parque Nacional los Haitises on the island’s northeastern coast, there’s an entire continent’s worth of geographic and cultural diversity packed into the small island-nation. Yet even with all this variety, DR doesn’t strike one as fertile territory for a road movie, at least a feature length road movie, but first-time director Guillermo Zouain has apparently taken on the challenge with his debut film, Algún lugar (On the Road, Somewhere).
In the great tradition of Y tu mamá, también, (but apparently with less explicit sex), Algún lugar follows three friends on the cusp of adulthood who take off on a soul-searching adventure across their island. Oliver is intent on making it to the coastal town of Pedernales to bid farewell to his high school sweetheart before she heads across el charco to the United States; Moises slings his camera nostalgically, conscious that his love affair with photography will soon be sacrificed in favor of a more practical career path; and Hemingway dreams of becoming a writer despite family and social pressures. Ultimately, a series of chance encounters will alter the trio’s plans and take them on an unexpected journey that will end in a final farewell.
The film’s trailer highlights Algún lugar’s sensitive cinematography and patient rhythm, prioritizing the naturalistic dynamic between actors Arnold Martínez González, Javier Grullón, and Victor Alfonso, who often find themselves visually cast against the backdrop of the Dominican Republic’s breathtaking tropical landscapes. While the film is firmly planted in commercially-oriented genre territory, it seems to carve out a middle ground between the box-office baiting comedies of actors like Fausto Mata and more conventional festival fare like the recent hit, Dólares de Arena (Sand Dollars). It is a difference that is brought into relief during a rather uncomfortable encounter with popular comedian Manolo Ozuna, whose over-the-top comedic register doesn’t quite jibe with the otherwise organic performances seen throughout the trailer.
Indeed, at first look Algún lugar reminds one more of a low-budget American indie flick than a more typical Latin American festival film, and could very well be the beginning of a more middle-brow sensibility brewing on the island, taking its cues more from Sundance than from Rotterdam or Berlin.
Algún lugar is slowly making its way through the U.S. festival circuit, premiering first at the Miami International Film Festival back in March before hauling across the country to the San Diego Latino Film Festival. Keep a look out for an upcoming screening near you.