Reel Representation: Diversity in Film
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Dreadlocked and handsome Dominican-Haitian Julián (Jean Jean) begins a jail sentence for petty theft inside the notorious Najayo prison just outside Santo Domingo. While navigating the indignities, corruption and everyday violence from both guards and fellow inmates, he becomes immersed in the system of “Woodpeckers,” the unique sign language the male prisoners use to communicate with women in the adjacent penitentiary just over 400 feet away. Standing in windows or out in prison yards, love – and heated liaisons – blossom. Julián’s entanglement with one female inmate, Yanelly (the astonishing Judith Rodriguez Perez), is the fuse that ignites the events of WOODPECKERS, which was shot on location at the actual prison using real inmates for all but the lead roles. Director José María Cabral, whose work is the Dominican Republic’s official submission for the Foreign Language Oscar, delivers a knockout film, full of atmosphere, sexuality, and grit.
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Dominican Republic, 2017, 106 minutes, In Spanish with English subtitles, Directed by José María Cabral
“Raw, intriguing and energetic…striking, gutsy credibility.”– Jonathan Holland, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER