A crime fable set in the Dominican Republic, Cocote follows Alberto, akin-hearted gardener returning home to attend his father’s funeral. When he discovers that a powerful local figure is responsible for his father’s death, Alberto realises that he has been called home not for a funeral but to fulfil his family’s desire for revenge. This is unthinkable to Alberto, a practicing Evangelical Christian and goes against his strongly held beliefs, however as pressure mounts from all sides, including within he sees little way out.
Cocote is a Dominican slang term for the soon to be broken neck of an animal, referring in part to the manner in which Alberto’s father was killed and also the violence to come. This violence hangs around in the film like an unwelcome spirit, at times feeling as if it has control of the camera. As the camera pans to take in the room there is a sense that it is searching for something, a reason to break out, asap through which the built up frustration and pain can erupt.
The film itself is beautifully shot, has a broken narrative, flits between colour palettes and aspect ratios as if to highlight the split second transitions and decisions swirling in Alberto’s mind. HE is troubled, challenged and uneasy about his family’s lust for revenge. Can he hold his beliefs and yet satisfy his family’s desires? Can God forgive him for what he has been called home to do? His family are sceptical of his faith, seeing it as a means to back out of honour traditions that hold his community together. He is screamed at for his inaction which his family see as hypocrisy given God’s own violent past.
Cocote is a film that is a difficult watch at times, the changes in ratio, colour palette etc can be jarring and for many may prove them a little distracting. I however, found the film to be a mesmeric, hypnotic exploration of faith, tradition and honour. Can we ever really escape from the traditions and history of our family, our communities and their influence or will they forever hold sway over our choices?
The film has been entered into the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film and while it may be early to predict the nominees or the eventual winner, I will not be surprised if the originality and hypnotic beauty of Cocote brings greater recognition in the future.