San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican Film ‘Caribe’ Premieres Today

IN the week before the premiere of thefilm “Caribe” in its home country, directorEsteban Ramírez was named Best Directorat the awards ceremony of the XIX LatinAmerican Film Festival in Trieste, Italy.“Caribe” is a feature-length film producedentirely in Costa Rica that premierestoday in nearly every major theater in thecountry. Expectations have soared hereamong insiders, and with the recent award, atleast so far they might not be disappointed.In a statement, the Trieste Festivalexplained its choice saying Ramírez won“because of his clear dominion of the spectaculardimension (of the film) – the personalreinvention of a sensual reality overwhich hangs destruction.”“CARIBE” is based on real events onthe Caribbean coast, exploring the struggleagainst a U.S. oil exploration and drillingcompany, and the protagonists’ bouts withlove and infidelity. It is a film some considerthe most significant and impressive inthis country’s history, and encompassesthemes that are nearlystereotypically Tico –imminent environmentaldamage, protest againstgovernment decisions,love, people’s movementsagainst foreign businessinterests and infidelity.The actor who portraysthe film’s villain, CostaRican immigrant fromMexico, actor/director Gabriel Retes, calledit “a story of great loves and passions” in thecontext of opposition to environmentaldestruction.The film is based on the story “ElSolitario” (The Solitary), by Carlos Salazar,and is a fictional account of a prolongedprotest on grounds of environmental protectionagainst the U.S. oil company Harken,which won a still-disputed contract toexploit the region’s oil deposits (TT, Oct.15).The film is the crown of Costa Ricandirector Esteban Ramírez’ career, who co-wrotethe screenplay with Ana Istarú, alsoCosta Rican. Ramírez also directed the shortfilm Once Rosas (Eleven Roses), which waschosen for 20 international film festivals,including those in La Habana, Cuba, SaoPaulo, Brazil, and Moscow, Russia.“THE movie is pertinent to the timesbecause it deals with bad government management– things come out in the movie thatwe are dealing with now,” Ramírez said.Retes agreed. “The currency of thisfilm,” will impress its audiences, he said.He also believed the director may havebeen clairvoyant for his choice of subjects.“In times of so much corruption, Ibelieve (director) Esteban (Ramírez) knewof this before it happened – it’s a movie thatwill impress every Costa Rican,” he said.“CARIBE” was filmed on locationthroughout the Caribbean province ofLimón in towns lined with wild beaches,surrounded by rivers or rain forests andsometimes boasting all three, such as PuertoViejo, Cocles, Manzanillo, Bribrí, and thecity of Limón. Under the “maturity” and“clarity” of Ramírez’s direction, as Retescharacterized it, the filming lasted threeyears and incorporated talent from throughoutthe Spanish-speaking world.A nationwide lack of experience withcinema was one of the most difficult challengesto surmount, Ramírez said. That,and there was no support from the government.“This isn’t a country that stimulates film– it has no cinematic tradition,” he said.THIS director set his sights on thatlack of tradition, having carved his ownnotch in Costa Rica’s film history with thislatest. “Caribe” has premiered in internationalfilm festivals in Colombia, Chile andItaly before audiences numbering in thehundreds.It grabbed the attention of other festivalproducers and, Ramírez said, scooped upother invitations to festivals later on. It willalso premiere in other Central Americancountries, he said, but the details remainunclear.“For the culture and the memory of acountry, film is very important,” Ramírezsaid. “This movie, ‘Caribe,’ has elementsrepresentative of Costa Rica like its naturalbeauty and citizen involvement.”Some of its actors are among the mostacclaimed the Spanish-speaking world hasto offer. The film’s main characters, playedby Cuban actor Jorge Perugorría, star of“Fresa y Chocolate,” which was nominatedfor the Oscar in 1994, Spanish actress CucaEscribano, who starred in “Poniente”(West), Mexican actress Maya Zapata, winnerof the Mexican counterpart to the Oscar,the Ariel, for “De la Calle” (From theStreet), and Retes, also owner of the café,Spanish-language movie and stage theaterEl Semáforo (253-9126) in San Pedro, eastof San José.RETES, who said he loves playing badguys in films because “it’s the only rightway to be bad,” called the film “the bestCosta Rica has produced up till now.” Andhe has seen all of them, he said.“The subjects, the quality of the director– who is magnificent – the cinematography,the best Tico actors, and one of the greateststars of Latin American film, PedroPerrugoría,” Retes said, are what make thisCosta Rica’s first champion heavyweightcontender in the international film ring.One Costa Rican actor made his debutfilm performance, Roberto McLean, andother Ticos took supporting roles, such asVinicio Rojas, Arnoldo Ramos, ThelmaDarkins, Michelle Jones, Leonardo Perucci,Bismark Méndez, Sara Astica and MelvinMéndez.An international team of technicians andartists worked behind the scenes, as well,and the celebrated Tico musician WalterFlores, who won three Grammys with hiswork with Panamanian singer RubénBlades, wrote the movie score.“It’s a mix of the best national and internationaltalent in a film that represents thegreat things of our country,” Ramírez said.“I believe in this film. It’s a huge nationaleffort, and was worth it.”Though it is not scheduled for releasewith subtitles in Costa, export versions willbear translations in both English andFrench.The film is now playing all over thecountry. For theater listings and schedules,see the inside of The Tico Times’ last page.

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