Thursday, March 30, 2023

Challenges of making documentary films in the Dominican Republic, explained by René Fortunato

Making movies in the Dominican Republic, in theory, seems like an easy task. However, depending on the genre, getting investors to carry out the film can happen as quickly as a short, or almost eternal as a feature film. Comparatively, sure.

For example, film director René Fortunato recently released “Caamaño: From a Military to a Guerrilla Fighter,” a documentary that narrates a few days in the life of the former president of the Dominican Republic, Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó.

“We worked two and a half years, almost three, on the project, parallel to the investigation. I was also gathering all the documentation that is required to take advantage of the tax incentives of the film law,” Fortunato told the money.

Today, despite having all the requirements of the Directorate General of Cinema (DGCine) -which did not earn him the monetary support of investors- the film is already in the projection rooms with unprecedented moments from the life of caamaño.


Although the film lasts just over an hour narrating those few days, it took almost three years of production and the work began more than three decades ago. The initial material for the documentary were fragments of “April: The Trench of Honor”, which premiered in 1988.

“It was a latent inspiration that was in ‘background’, because it came with ‘La trench of honor’. When I finished that documentary, the great success it had, the expression of support and gratitude for that work made me caress the idea of ​​doing a second part with the life of Caamaño”, he commented.

This is how he reveals that he had been saving material for the work for years. However, he explains that the big problem with that project, at that time, is that you could only physically access the resources, documents, audio and images that were there. “We are talking about a similar period,” he added.

It is a film in which he answers questions such as why Caamaño went to Cuba or why he came with the people who came. In other words, he showed the process. “Well, as you saw, from a career military to becoming a guerrilla.”

As in “April: The Trench of Honor”, this feature film was made entirely with images and sounds of the time. Fortunato explains that this process implies that more responsibilities fell on him as director.

“When it comes to a fiction film, or another genre, you have a lot of people working for you. In other words, you manage a larger budget, and you have, let’s say, segmented responsibilities. It is less heavy than the documentary, ”he explained. Likewise, he points out that, in the case of the genre that he produces, the burden is on the producer.

“It is you who has almost all the load on you. So the work is greater and it is more difficult, because there are fewer people, ”she pointed out. In a fiction film, for example, he cites that there is a pre-production, a team working with the locations, “looking for the rights issue”, managing the music, designing and making the costumes, among other aspects.


Indeed, in “Caamaño: from a military man to a guerrilla fighter”, which had its premiere at the National Theater, it was verified that the documentary was sustained in images and sounds of that historical moment. “It is a reconstruction of a period with an image of the time. That makes the job more difficult,” he explained.

For this recent production, he recalled that it is about five years of the life of the Dominican hero when he was in Cuba. “This is about a man who lived clandestinely in a country where access to information is totally restricted, so you can imagine the effort that that meant.”

As well as the premiered documentary, Fortunato reveals that he has “many other projects”, such as another fictional film, “also on the list”. However, he regrets that he does not find investors. “I have a fictional film about the Trujillo era with the budget, script, cast and everything approved by DGCine. I have more than five years behind an investor, and nothing.


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