Dominican Independent Film, ‘Cabarete,’ Will Be Showcasing Authenticity at the PJIFF

Cabarete BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Director Ivan Bordas

After months of putting our lives on hold to survive a massive public health crisis, an online film festival is just what we need. Events, such as the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival, an annual event produced by volunteers, stayed afloat despite the merciless waves of reality slamming against all of us. They trekked on and maintained their commitment to highlighting independent films.

A year later, they are hosting 14 days of online film screenings, speaker panels, and virtual events. Though they typically hold their event in the historic downtown districts of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, California, they have adapted to the world COVID-19 has painted while staying true to their vision. This has allowed them to promote independent films such as Cabarete.

Cabarete was directed and produced by the Dominican director Ivan Bordas. The film showcases a kite surfer in the Dominican Republic trying to find the balance between his dream of becoming a professional athlete and his fascination with the nightlife.

The magic of the film is felt through its authenticity. Each scene carefully displays Caribbean culture, which allows the viewer to have a genuine experience. 

BELatina News recently spoke to director Ivan Bordas to learn more about Cabarete. Here’s what he had to say:

BELatina: Tell us a bit more about yourself 

Director Ivan Bordas: Well, I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where I enjoyed the beach basically every week. I really enjoyed the Caribbean life, especially its people, but I moved to the United States to study film years ago because there was no film program in my hometown of Santiago, which is in the northern part of the Dominican Republic. 

BL: How did you come across filmmaking?

IB: I used to love watching movies when I was younger. I actually got a camera from my parents. It was a small digital camera back then with a little tape, so I took it and started making videos down on the island. That’s how I realized that I wanted to study film. 

BL: What motivated you to create Cabarete?

IB: Well, I came about Cabarete because I live nearby. The name of the film is the name of a region in the Dominican Republic.  I’m actually a 15-minute drive from the town of Puerto Plata, where this region is located. Something about this region is that there’s a special “microclimate” within it where you have 40 plus nationalities living there. So, in this place, you are easily merged into this melting pot of wonderful cultures. These cultures derive from places like Europe, the United States, South America, Asia, Africa, and even Russia. You name it, and someone from that culture is probably there. This place is filled with such different experiences, and a lot of it is because of the clash of cultures. So, I was very much attracted to telling a story about the characters, which really, many are my friends. Some of these characters come from very humble backgrounds but have gone on to become international stars in kite surfing. 

BL: What is something the audience can expect from the film?

IB: When people watch the movie, they will probably get a sense that every character is looking for paradise. Even the people who come from other parts of the island, they, too, will be looking for paradise. In other words, Cabarete will have viewers witness the character’s search for their happiness (and it can be more than one thing).

BL: How long have you been working on Cabarete?

IB: I actually came up with the idea about 15 years ago. I really wanted to tell this story, so I wrote the script while I was in school. I was able to jump-start this project thanks to the film incentives provided by the Dominican Republic. Once I got this going, we filmed. Cabarete was filmed before the pandemic. 

BL: Does Cabarete have subtitles?

IB: The film is in Spanish at the moment. But it does have English subtitles. There are some English lines in there because the movie involves foreign residents living in the area, and they speak English. Other than that, the movie is about 95 percent Spanish. I really wanted to be true to the story, which is why I decided on this. 

BL: What makes this film so special to you?

IB: For me, I was very rigid with this film. I wanted to be truthful to the area. This included being true to the mannerisms of the region. The dialects and the actions of the locals on the island vary. A lot of it has to do with whether you’re from the southern, eastern, or northern side of the Dominican Republic. I really wanted to make sure that we got the accents right, especially since I’m from that area. Another example of my commitment to the authenticity of the film is the actors. The star of Cabarete is someone who hadn’t acted before, but he is from Cabarete. So, you get that real element and energy that revolves around this region. Also, all the music used throughout the movie is Dominican. I truly wanted the complete Dominican DNA, without hindering the universal story and I think we accomplished that. You’ll notice that the story can travel and that the people relate to that story anywhere. 

BL: Do you have any advice for others who are trying to get into the film industry?

IB: The important thing is the story, and I didn’t know this from the get-go. I came in from a visual background, where I was mainly photographing. But one day it dawned on me that the story is what’s important. Everybody has a good story to tell and it’s up to us to tell it. You can get one hundred dollars, a million dollars, or ten million, but it doesn’t really matter without a good story. You only need the idea. Everything else, including the technology, can be found in your cell phone or your computer. So, even if the barriers to produce and create a movie has gone down, the barriers of entry, meaning getting that story, have never come down. All you need to do is go sit down in a quiet place and think. Ask yourself what is the story you want to tell and why you want to go through it. Once you do that, tell your story, unadulterated, and go for it. 

BL: How can our audience enjoy your film?

IB: The audience can go to the Poppy Jasper site to see the schedule and look for Cabarete. I really do hope everyone gets a chance to watch it. However, if they’re not able to see it,  keep on the lookout to see what else pops up. Either way, it is important to go to any festival and support the cinema. Sure, watching blockbuster films can be fun, but don’t forget about independent films. In fact, about 95 percent of the films out there are independent, so there’s plenty of options. Besides, it never hurts to venture out.