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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'La Soga' star responds to attacks on movie's depiction of the Dominican Republic

In the last few days, my blog has been full of charges and counter-charges involving "La Soga," a taut crime thriller that was the first film from the Dominican Republic to play the Toronto Film Festival. I think it's a movie that deserves to be seen in the U.S., even if its view of crime and corruption in the Dominican Republic has clearly hit a raw nerve, especially with many natives of that country. As you can see from the heated comments to the post, many people have strong feelings about the movie, which stars Manny Perez -- who also wrote the film -- as a government-paid hit man who tries to come to grips with his past while living the life of an assassin, bumping off drug dealers and other incorrigible bad guys.


Many readers, including several people who'd actually seen the film, defended the picture's graphic portrait of crime in the island country, saying (as one commenter put it) that the film was "haunting and beautiful all at once." But many other readers are angry at Perez, and of course at me, the journalist who wrote the story, for focusing on the issues of violence and corruption. No one has minced words. One reader called the film's portrayal "ridiculous" while another said it was "a fake representation of the Dominican Republic." Others called the film "a distortion of reality," while another reader, RoboCop, said "hopefully Manny and [filmmaker] Josh Crook were just clowning around and high on drugs when they did this interview."

According to a number of media accounts, including this in-depth piece by CNN, corruption is rampant in the D.R. In fact, responding to charges that the organizations supposedly in charge of fighting drug traffic and corruption were actually deeply involved in it, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez recently fired 700 police officers and more than 30 military and police generals, including the former head of DNCD, the nation's top antidrug agency. Yet, why does a film that depicts similar crime and corruption prompt such a storm of protest? I spoke again with Perez, who grew up in Baitoa, a small town outside of Santiago, but now lives in New York's Washington Heights, to get his reaction to the critical comments.

"First off, I want to make it clear that we could have never gotten the movie made without the help of the people of the local communities there," he told me. "Dominicans may be poor, but they are kind and generous. They'd bring us food and make coffee for the crew. But I didn't exaggerate anything. What you see in the movie are things that have actually happened. I think people are upset because we're showing the country's dirty laundry, the kind of things people want to brush under the carpet. The Dominican Republic is a third-world country and sometimes people do what they need to do to survive. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are just in denial about what has gone on in the country."

Perez suspects that much of the criticism is class based. "The rich and educated class doesn't want someone like me to talk about the reality in the D.R. They think it gives the country a bad name and ruins its image. But they should face the reality. Vin Diesel might have had an easy time when he shot his film short down there because he had plenty of money to spend and keep things running smoothly. We didn't have any money to pay people off, so we saw the reality.

"I just wish people would see the film. It doesn't say the Dominican Republic is a horrendous place. The theme of the story isn't just about violence and corruption. It's also about hope and redemption, about a guy who loses his innocence, but finds his heart. You know, we have an expression in the D.R. that goes, 'Don't try to cover the sun with one thumb.' It means you should always face reality. And that's what this film does. It faces the truth, but there are always people who don't want to see the truth out in the open, even though that's the best place for it to be."

Previously: 'LA Soga': The inside scoop on murder and corruption in the Dominican Republic

Comments () | Archives (15)

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Go Manny! The Dominican Republic is beautiful yet corrupt! I have to take Manny's side on this one he is just telling one story of countless stories that can be told about the Dominican Republic. He and director Josh Crook told it with a tact and style that should be commended. The story from what I know is personal to Manny from the Q&A at TIFF and should be protected. There are much darker things that can be said about Dominican Republic's Government. More importantly the right to tell his story should be Protected! La Soga forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I respect Mr. Perez' right to tell this story in his film. He has a creative freedom that he expressed on paper and on screen and that is something no one can take away from him. Since he showed an ugly side of DR in the film and first interview it would have been nice if he took the time in this rebuttle to express some of nicer things about the country. This seemed like the perfect chance for him to say "despite its flaws, Dominican Republic is a wonderful country with wonderful people". (Or something like that). Instead, Manny just seemed defensive and tried to reiterate the point that ticked people off to begin with...that this is how it is in DR period. Mr. Perez and others need to understand that this is a STORY/MOVIE not a documentary or news story so he has no right to present the film as fact and the commentators have no right to say what he should have shown in HIS movie.

Manny is an idiot! I've been to the poorest neighborhoods in the dominican republic and I've never seen this violence. The only ignorant one is him. He should not have responded, now he looks like a bigger A-hole. Geez....this guy is not smart. Wow. Everything he said doesn't make any sense.

I am an American that has chosen to live in the Dominican Republic and it is a beautiful country in all aspects, but at the same time there is greed, corruption, and crime as in any other country. I have only seen the trailer but I am anticipating seeing the movie soon and support Manny and everyone else involved in the movie.

I do not recall anyone mentioning that this film's context is the artist's hyperbole to capture a moment, either fictional or in how anyone with two inches of brain or culture could interpret. It is educational already. It is what it ought to be, a dialogue among those who mostly care. Stay put, everyone. Let the film do its job. Make no excuses or apologies...reality is what it is....You don't like it, make a proposal! And let's all sit in a round table and discuss where on this great potentially great planet, it will blow us...and if you don't like the smell...bring your fragrance, Conho! H5 to all of those men and women and actors and lambones who made this a great diving board. Hugs to all my people...Aprendamos!

Hi, I'm a movie reviews in Santiago, Dominican Republic. I'm waiting for the movie La Soga, so i can't tell about it until i watch the film. I want to talk about crime and corruption in my country.
It's true when Manny say that rich people are more educated, but not true when say that rich people are safe of crimes. A couple years ago, a young lady from high society was kill by three young men. The different when a poor people is killed and a rich is that the crime the police solve quickly.
The congress men, senate, and people who work for the goverment are no rare to be involve in corruption scandals. The problem in D.R. is that they still doing what they do, and nobody do nothing.
Dominicans films need to grow up, but i think that for someone judge a movie, first have to understand the way people lives in the country of the movie.
I repeat, i can give you my opinion of the movie until watch it, but i know Manny Pérez and his team are very proffesional and like to do good movies.

Por fa leen e'to por el Critico Severo Rivera en su blog, y callesen la boca!! Carajo!!!


Ustedes creen la versión policial. No sea pendejo. Esta página es esencialmente para las reseñas del entretenimiento, pero uno no puede pasar por debajo de la mesa acciones como las que describe mi compañero de labores, el periodista Adonis Santiago Díaz con su nota que publica Diario Libre en su edición de hoy.

Miren esta prenda, sucedió en Los Alcarrizos, un barrio pobre, donde las autoridades presumen, como suceden en otros sectores de la capital y del país, son nidos de delincuentes.

No se pierdan la sentencia de muerte del General convertido en Juez, un reflejo de lo que es la Policía Nacional en pleno siglo 21. ¿Se combate la delincuencia con acciones como estas?. Definitivamente nuestro país está jodido, muy jodido…

Aquí la historia de Adonis Santiago/Diario Libre

Un joven que supuestamente era buscado por la Policía acusado de matar uno en Bonao recibió tres disparos en la columna, en un pie y el otro en una mano de parte de una patrulla que le daba seguimiento y permaneció tirado en el piso del destacamento Juanita dos días hasta que ayer fue trasladado en un minibus sin condiciones para viajar.

Se trata de Willy Alcántara (a) Guarina, quien pidió a reporteros de Diario Libre que lo llevaran a un médico porque temía por su vida.

El general Ramoncito Girón calificó a Alcántara como un reconocido delincuente que era requerido por el Ministerio Público de Bonao. “No puedo mover los pies”, dijo Alcántara, mientras que sus familiares calificaban la acción de criminal y pidieron la intervención del Jefe de la Policía para que garantice la vida de su pariente.

Jerly María Veloz, pariente de Alcántara, dijo que el domingo en la noche un médico de la familia lo visitó en cuartel y le colocó un suero, “le suministró medicamentos que le pararon el sangrado”.

Un oficial dijo que fue llevado al hospital Vinicio Calventi y que allí fue despachado.

Sin embargo en el propio hospital no hay registros de entrada de Alcántara y este negó que fuera trasladado a un centro médico.

Alcántara fue trasladado solo a Bonao en un minibus color gris, placa I-042192 custodiado por tres agentes de la Policía fuertemente armados.

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Isn't Manny Perez the same guy who used to deny being Dominican to get parts? He's admitted to claiming for years that he was Italian until the 'Latin boom' came around and it was "cool" to be Latino again. Doesn't that say something about his willingness to sell out his country of origin for fame and fortune?

Hi, my name is Josh Crook and I’m the director of La Soga. I’ve been amazed at the response this article has gotten and I wanted to chime in. The emphasis of the article was on the hardships of shooting the movie and I stand by them. But this has given people the wrong impression of how Manny and I feel about the country. First and foremost it is important to keep in mind that Manny loves the DR and I’ve never met anyone more proud of being Dominican. It was this love that inspired him to spend seven years of his life bringing the complexities of the island to life on the screen. It was what inspired us to shoot it on the island when every producer we met with told us to shoot in Puerto Rico. It’s what inspired us to shoot it in Spanish when we could have gotten four times our shooting budget if we shot it in English. And while it’s true that shooting in the Dominican Republic presented us with challenges we never faced in any U.S. production, we shared there one of the most profound experiences of our lives. Dominican culture is rich and distinct. These were things we tried to bring to life in the movie. The country holds values of family and community which made every American who worked on the movie re-evaluate our own materialistic culture. The thing that I think this film proves is that the island has the potential to produce films which capture the imagination of international audiences. This is due to the amazing Dominican crews and film makers who brought La Soga to life. The island is full of talent both creative and technical. Many of our staff were from a film school in Santiago and it was great to see young people with the passion to tell stories. If La Soga and the story behind the making of it start a dialogue about some of the problems of the island then I feel that all of this passion is a good thing. In the end, please don’t misunderstand where we are coming from. I have nothing but love for the country and the friends I have there. It was the most rewarding shooting experience of my life and I’d do it again in a second. Also, in regard to the film commissioner’s comments, it is important to keep in mind that until La Soga, independent (non-Hollywood studio) film producers thought it was impossible to shoot there. We proved them wrong. Since I returned to New York, I have recommended shooting in the DR to two separate producers. From what I’m hearing, interest in making more films there is only growing. I personally look forward to bringing another film with a bigger budget back to the DR, and I would love to work with our Dominican crew on any film I do in the future.

All these negative comments from my people saddens me. Unfortunately, many Dominicans (not all) live in a perpetual state of denial. From our historical ancestry (yo soy indio no negro) to what actually takes place on the island from a political standpoint. As a kid growing up in Washington Heights amidst the cocaine fueled 80's where Colombians controlled the manufacting and the Dominicans had a lock on the distribution, there were many a story on the streets on how drug dollars flowed back to the island via money exchanges and into political coffers for political favors. There were even a story or two of Presidential first ladies driving gifted luxury German automobiles sent from New York City's most notorious in return for favores. I don't doubt for one second that there is some truth to the political improprieties depicted in La Soga. DR is not just resorts, Merengue, Barcelo, women and beautiful sunsets.

As a Dominican, it gives me great pride that a Dominican was finally able to achieve gettinAfter all, it's not all about resorts, Merengue, Barcelo, women and beautiful sunsets...g a film ever into the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.

Instead of kicking him (them) down, we should be giving them kudos and respect for getting it done.

That this film wasn't the corny, stereo-typical film that normally comes out of island is not the film-makers dilemma.

Complaining by writing a few paragraphs on a major news site is tacky and cheap.

If you really want to make a statement and get your point of view across, put your money where your mouth is by writing a script and raising $1M dollars to make your movie with your own point of view and then come here and spew.

La República is an island with many beautiful and positive things (people, culture, food, island, etc) and like the rest of the world it has its own seedy and shady side and I'm ok with that. The question is, are you?

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