Let’s talk about “Sambá,” the first Dominican film to arrive at the Tribeca Film Festival setting the Dominican Republic in a good spot within this film competition.

This production of 1.5 million dollars was written and starred by the Italian actor residing in Santo Domingo, Ettore D'Alessandro. We sat down with this visionary man and talked about the reasons why this particular film has stood out and managed to attract Tribeca’s attention, as well as other important film scenarios like the well-known Latin Festival BAFICI in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Ettore gave us a frank exposition about the conception of "Sambá" and the message behind this film about a Dominican man who succumbs in boxing, who teams up with an Italian former boxer, after completing a prison sentence in the United States and return to his country with no options to survive.

A poignant and overcoming story that also reveals a trans lucid environment of the city of Santo Domingo where the true crudeness in socio-economic and migratory context is clarified with characters that reincarnate a very genuine vision Ettore has created and personally lived in his own journey of life.

LT: What’s the story narrated in "Sambá"?

ED: It’s about a Dominican man, Cisco (Algenis Perez Soto), who returns to his country after fifteen years of detention in the United States, then arrives in the Dominican Republic and finds himself with a panorama that he does not know and with few possibilities for work. All he could do is to fight, something he learned from prison. On the other hand, there is an Italian, Nichi (Ettore D'Alessandro), who  accidentally lost an eye interrupting his passion for boxing. Fate makes these two people meet and complement each other to achieve a team where each one needs something from the other as both reach a personal learning through the process.

LT: We've seen a lot of movies that tackle the subject of Boxing. What makes 'Sambá' different than the others?

ED: Boxing films are projects of genres, subject to clichés. As producers along with my wife Carolina Encarnación, we tried to get away from what we had seen before and we both thought about focusing on the crudeness and simplicity of the environment in which we developed the film, which was shoot in Santo Domingo. The idea was to have this city as the main character. I wanted to "smell" the streets, make everybody could see that graphic aspect where you can actually use all senses. What happened with “Rocky” it’s something that occurred in another moment, it doesn’t need to be repeated. This movie lives in a vivid present and goes beyond boxing.

LT: Personally, now that you see the movie.  Is your mission accomplished?

ED: The challenge was to tell a story of boxing, a sport that for me is an excellent metaphor for cinematic life. Since we came into the world, life begins to strike us and we have to rise continuously. I wanted to tell a story of redemption and second chances through the metaphor of boxing. In my life I have fallen many times and I have failed, but I have reached great moments like this in which I have risen. I put a lot of my life in these characters and I think that was achieved.

 

LT: What's the relation writer-directors towards the issues presented on the film?

ED: As directors Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cardenas (Sand Dollars) managed to give a voice to the film. I love the contrasts that can be observed, Strong social and economic contrasts. I wanted to achieve a lot of appreciation for every detail that defines the Dominican essence and the directors had the necessary sensitivity to achieve it. “Sambá” shows a social reality that reaches many themes: those deported Dominicans who return to their country and have to reintegrate into society; the cruel poverty and the consistent search of possibilities in that city; plus the personal difficulties each character live during the drama.

LT: What about the actors? Tell us about Laura Gomez From OITNB character on the film.

ED: We have professional actors but also some people who worked without any experience and for that reason you can notice that crudeness that is very interesting. The directors proposed Laura Gomez and I loved her work as she fits perfectly in the character. Originally, his role was written for a man and through the process, that idea was changing. She did a very interesting job. She owns a boxing gym and through her we explored a tough topic which is the gender difference in Latin American countries where it’s odd to see a woman in charge of this type of company.

LT: What does this movie means for Dominican Republic?

ED: I honestly think that the final result is very good and it’s an important step for the Dominican filmmaking industry. I have to thank the opportunity that gave me that country and emphasize that as an Italian professional, to make a film I had to move to Dominican Republic because in my own country I could not reach that accomplishment. I believe that we must appreciate The Dominican Republic Film Law. It’s something that’s not found in any country in the world. It is a blessing. It’s important to understand the wealth of the Caribbean market, which is gaining an identity. It’s necessary to contextualize the Dominican films and consider making strong content movies.

LT: What’s one of the biggest social issues the movie shows off?

ED: Well, there is a lot of talent in the Dominican Republic, from art to sports and, sadly,  in most cases are not supported. On the shooting, we worked with real fighters for some scenes; people with many merits (national and international champions) in their careers but after shooting is over faced a cruel reality of limited options to live the way they’re supposed to. It’s sad and unfair to see that on athletes of this level.

LT: What message will audiences will get from this film?

ED: I think the cinema is trying to establish a relationship with the audience. It's a movie about redemption. There are things that are given and some that do not. For everything you do, you will receive consequences. It is not about losing or winning, it is always about getting up. That's the message. Life like boxing is about falling down but always getting the way back up.

“Sambá” had a great week in Tribeca and Bafici. Several festivals have requested the film. The movie can be seen at Tribeca Film Festival two last options April 29 and 30 at 3:00 PM and 10:15 AM at Regal Cinemas Battery Park. It is confirmed worldwide distribution and USA premiere soon.  In the Dominican Republic would be released on June 29.