Talk about Documentary film in the Dominican Republic is to refer to René Fortunato, who for decades has brought the history of the Caribbean country to the big screen and has taught both Dominicans and foreigners about transcendental characters and events of the nation.
However, and very contrary to what one might think, regardless of the historical and cultural value of their productions, access to financing has been the biggest obstacle to developing that film genre. “In general terms, I must tell you that one of the problems of Dominican cinema now, and of the incipient industry, is that triviality and superficiality have been prioritized,” he told elDinero.
Fortunato, who recently premiered “Caamaño: From a Military to a Guerrilla Fighter,” a work that shows a little-explored facet of the former president of the Dominican Republic in arms, Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó, revealed during the film’s premiere that he did not have monetary support despite to have the necessary records dictated by the Film Law 108-10.
“Parallel to the production, we were taking steps to see if we could get an investor to participate, but we were unsuccessful,” he lamented in conversation with this medium. It was then that he undertook what he described as the arduous task of executing the project with his resources and “my credibility.”
A series of measures can be made to ensure that a film production is a higher quality product and that we can proudly exhibit it abroad. Until now, there are few that can deserve that qualification of representing us.
Just like in the local economy, the success of the cinema lies in diversification. That is the reason why the film director affirms that he has assumed documentaries as a weapon to contribute to the development and advancement of both the country and society. “It is my way of contributing to the cultural and social development of the Dominican Republic.”
However, the fact that cinema has what he described as a strong social and political burden is precisely what slows down its development. “That scares investors a lot,” he assured while explaining that the elements that attract the most in his productions, “the truth, verticality and calling things by their name”, are, paradoxically, what do not please the conservative sectors, those who “maintain economic power.”
Fortunato dared to confess that a businessman, who was told about his recent film projectHe replied: “I don’t put my money into anything that could bring me political trouble.” He even added that it is a reality for most investors.
“I am left out of the Dominican business community because of the burden that my work has. It is not complacent, but neither can I sacrifice my principle, idea and concept to be complacent or subservient to the criteria of the investors”, he maintained. Despite the foregoing, and the “number of people who support him, but with words and praise”, it is precisely his audience that sustains the productions he makes.
The filmmaker recalled how the quality of his work has guaranteed him a livelihood. First with distribution during the VHS era in the 1980s with “April: The trench of honor” and the trilogy of “Trujillo: The power of the boss”. “Let’s say that I had, in that first stage, the monetary support of the public that follows me, I always had a market,” he said, adding that his distribution networks have facilitated the process.
Today, the digital revolution has made it even easier to support their productions. Specifically, the launch of its YouTube channel, which has boosted the business. “In paid streaming, that is, YouTube pays per view and that’s what I’m betting on,” he commented.
Dominicans, and foreigners, now have the opportunity to view all their documents through Videocine Palau, which has more than 100,000 subscribers and more than 13,000,000 views thanks to its eight previous feature films. Other than that. Fortunato has a production company, with which he makes documentaries.
Film Law: René Fortunato was one of the promoters of the Film Law in the Dominican Republic, despite not enjoying its benefits due to external factors. “It saddens me that I participated in newsrooms and I don’t get the encouragement it provides.” Former President Leonel Fernández, in his mandate, created a Film Law Drafting Commission between 2006 and 2008 with the Ministry of Culture “and we spent four years discussing that law.” For the film director, the law is of benefit to the sector and although he understands that not everything is perfect, more than the law, it is the application that deserves to be reviewed or observed. “The law has a regulation.
For example, much progress has been made in terms of financial controls. There are many requirements for invoices, quotes, etc. “, he said, while recommending that just as they all make demands to control spending, the money that is invested in the cinema, that they be as rigorous with the quality of the product that is being doing without the need to intervene in its content, “because a series of measures can be taken to guarantee the quality of our products without the need to accuse the authorities that they are violating the free expression of thought.