Artificial beaches are being built somewhere in the Caribbean. A young model expects some friends by the pool, a gardener and a maid fancy about buying expensive furniture, a group of street-sweepers philosophize about love and some amateur golfers try to enter the ball in the hole, while tourists, between noise and machines, go for a little walk.
While we were working on a project which should have as centerpiece the issue of happiness, we found the construction of a private, artificial beach for foreigners. It seemed as a paradox, Dominican Republic is a country known worldwide for its virgin, paradise beaches. We started to film this construction and met the community living aside, half rich, half poor, divided by a perimeter fence. This site turns out to be a small sample of the model of progress and modernity pursued by Dominican society and many other corners of the world: a majority constructing happiness for a minority. But the people we met and filmed in this divided community had something in common, despite their social differences: they were immersed in their everyday problems: love, money, social mobility, loneliness. They gave us rhum, invited us to their pools, they asked us to listen to their favorite love songs. It was clear for us that if humanity is destroying its natural world, but small daily problems really torment and tangle humans, this film should be a tragicomedy.
INTERVIEW ORIOL ESTRADA AND NATALIA CABRAL
– What was your inspiration for SITE OF SITES?
A relative of ours was one of the first owners of an apartment in the landscape where we shot “Site of Sites”. This landscape is a tourist complex under construction with villas, hotels and golf courses. What initially caught our attention was the everyday relation between the tourists and the construction workers: the tourists were walking around with their colorful bathing suits while workers, grey with cement, were working hard under the sun with their noisy machines. It wasn’t your typical vacation postcard at all, but it was sometimes very funny to watch, and other times it would make us reflect about the world we are living in. As we were getting to know the place, we quickly found out that the construction workers were also the neighbors of the tourists, they lived just aside in a shanty town divided from the tourist complex by a perimeter fence. We were chocked but very curious about it, so we returned every once in a while with a film in mind for the future. Some months later, when we were granted with the Doctv Fund, we knew we had to shoot our next film in this same place.
– How did this curiosity for the place develop into a film?
We knew we wanted to share the same sensations we had when we discovered the place and confront it with the people living there. At the beggining, we were very critical about this places being build the way it was, with an artificial beach and golf courses while the neighbors, the workers, were living in poor conditions in a shanty town just aside. But when we talked to the workers, they seemed pretty happy about the tourist complex; if it wasn’t for the complex, they would have nothing to eat, nothing to live for. That really kept us thinking. Then, we met the tourists and vacacioners from the city, with their paradise villas and swimming pools; but what we found in them was loneliness, that also kept us thinking. The relationship between the two worlds was strange and surreal, like happiness and sadness can also be, so we decided to work on achieving a strange, surreal look for the film; we also searched for protagonists whose real lives would let us work creatively with this point of view. Once we had the protagonists, we worked on the differences and similarities between them and later in the editing room, we worked for the unity of places and people. We believe that as a result, “Site of Sites’ is a film that can sometimes be serious and can sometimes be funny, a human, contradictory film that laughs at itself, trying to be suggestive.
– What was the biggest challenge for you in this film?
We knew we wanted many protagonists and locations in the film, so our biggest challenge was to achieve a certain unity, without loosing personality. We would try different ways of organizing shots and elements inside the scenes everyday, so it was more of an experimental process for us, we would find the answers along the way.
– Being the Dominican Republic an attractive tourist country of exotic beaches and promises of happiness, how did you face this popular perspective?
The search for happiness is a struggle that belongs to every human being all over the world. In the Dominican Republic, people seem to smile pretty often, they dance, they have sunny weather all year long; but lots of Dominicans must go to other countries to find education, health care, more equal societies, a better living. Often when they get there, they find less smiles, cold weather and people who dream of spending their lives in the Caribbean. All over the world, some people have what others just dream of, humans need to believe there is a greener grass somewhere else. You can find relations about these ideas in “Site of Sites”, different social classes but same dreams coexisting in one place.
– What can the protagonists suggest about happiness in their different lives?
In “Site of Sites” there’s a model, some sweepers, some golfers, a gardener and a maid; there are also machines building or destroying landscapes, depends on how you look at it, and many tourists walking around everywhere. We assume that happiness is also around, sometimes accompanying the protagonists and others times abandoning them. Perhaps happiness is not a certainty in our movie, it’s a question that offers every protagonist in every scene.
English title: Site of Sites
Original title: El Sitio de los Sitios
Country: Dominican Republic
Running time: 61 min
Running Time TV version: 52 min.
Shooting format: HD
Screening formats: DPC, Blu-ray
Speed rate: 24 / 29.97 / 25fps
Aspect Ratio: 1,78:1 (16:9)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 / Stereo
Completion date: November 2016