Trópico de Sangre is more than a movie; it is a riveting, eyes-glued-to-the-screen, journey to a Dominican Republic that most Dominicans my age have only heard about in the stories of our elders. In the Dominican Republic of that era, Trujillo was God. He was omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He not only single-handedly controlled all the resources of the island but he also lorded over the very souls of the people of the picturesque nation. His vast network of spies and informers kept the entire population in a constant state of fear. It was absolutely mandatory that every household have a plaque that stated “in this house, Trujillo is the boss.” Not coincidentally, Trujillo owned the company that manufactured the plaques. To put things into perspective: Santo Domingo, a city that was founded in 1496 and is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas, became Trujillo City. Such was his grip on power.
Trópico de Sangre begins in the late 1940’s and vividly and faithfully recreates the Dominican Republic of that period. Through the brilliant cinematography, excellent casting and exceptional Directing by Juan Delancer, the viewer is transported into Trujillo’s world. In the film, you see the raw and rugged beauty of the island but a melancholy sadness pervades this proverbial Eden. Juan Fernandez as Trujillo captures the dictator’s mannerisms, megalomania and his insatiable lust, avarice and ruthlessness. Trujillo is always surrounded by a coterie of sycophants that try to outdo each other to please “El Jefe”.
The indomitable Minerva Mirabal, played radiantly by Michelle Rodriguez, imagines a different Dominican Republic. She cannot, by her very nature, acquiesce to Trujillo’s dominance. She prefers to become a martyr than to become an exile and fearlessly confronts the dictator and his brutal thugs. The murder of her and her sisters by the regime sealed the fate of one of history’s most brutal and repressive dictatorships.
As a Dominican, I cannot overstate how incredible it is to see a film made about Dominicans, by Dominicans and for Dominicans. The cast could not have been better. Everyone from Celinés Toribio, to César Évora, to Claudette Lali did a magnificent job. Sergio Carlo as Minerva Mirabal’s husband played his role with aplomb and dignity. He also impressed me with his singing ability during the serenade to the young Minerva. The film leaves you breathless the whole time and at the risk of losing my street cred, the tears flowed freely throughout. This is a must see movie. In order to ensure that the DR never slides back to tyranny, one must know what it felt and looked like. This movie is a great place to start. Vigilance!!!
Check out pics from the Premiere: Here