Screening at the 2nd Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF), which kicks off today, February 11, running through the 16th, is a film described as a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, set in the Dominican Republic.
Directed by Leticia Tonos Paniagua, and titled Cristo Rey, the drama follows the relationship between a kind-hearted teenager, ostracized for his mixed Haitian-Dominican descent, and the beautiful sister of a local drug kingpin he’s hired to protect.
Cristo Rey stars James Saintil, Akari Endo, and Yasser Michelén, and will be making its World Premiere at TIFF next month.
If director Paniagua’s name is familiar, it may be because, 2 years ago, we profiled her last film, La Hija Natural (Love Child), when it was set to be the Centerpiece film at the Caribbean Tales Film Showcase in Toronto.
La hija natural (Love Child) centers on María, young woman with the strange habit of putting ladybugs in her mouth, who, after her mother dies in an accident, decides to look for the father she has never met. She travels to a nearby town taking what few belongings she has. She finds her father, Joaquín, living in a dark, old house in the middle of an abandoned banana plantation, which the locals claim is haunted by spirits. He lives there with an enigmatic Haitian as his only companion. Having no one else in the world, she has no option but to stay with this drunken and recently widowed old man, and confront the ghosts of the past that haunt them both.
The film is available for viewing on various online websites I came across, but none of them looked official, requiring you to download one application or another in other to view the film. Although it looks like it’s available on DVD, but just not in the USA.
A graduate of the London Film School, Leticia Tonos says she’s more interested in posing questions, than making statements, and especially prefers tackling social issues.
Cristo Rey, which reflects her mission, is her second feature directorial effort.
Watch its trailer below: