WOODPECKERS (Carpinteros)


Jose Maria Cabral is a Dominican Republic film director of whom I had never heard. But his latest film as deservedly draw quite a bit of attention which includes a nomination Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema - Drama category for his latest film originally titled "Carpinteros"; recently retitled "Woodpeckers".


This isn't a nature film or a film about a pesky bird, it is what they call inmates in prison who chat with female inmates by way of sign language. In this case Dominican Republic's Najayo Prison.


The films protagonist, Julian (played by Dominican-Haitian actor Jean Jean) has just been incarcerated in the prison for an unknown crime. Minutes after a brief hazing he is approached by Manaury (Ramon Emilio Candelario) who assures him that he is the only guy Julian needs to know in the prison. Moreover, Julian should hatch his wagon to Manaury for fun and profit.

Manaury's first assignment for Julian is fir Julian to talk to his girlfriend in the women's cell block. Communication is by prison hand signals with the guy perched atop prison windows while the women gather in their yard.


Manaury wants Julian to have Yanelly (Judith Rodriguez Perez) send him a new picture so that he can masturbate. She refuses proclaiming that she is done with him because he cheated on her somehow. But she is very interested in the messenger... Julian.


It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this is not a good situation for Julian, especially since Manaury carries a shiv...constantly. They other variable is that Yanelly is only a short time from being released. Why would she get involved with a new prisoner?


The intrigue develops as Yanelly and Julian try to conceal their relationship from Manaury, the prison guards and the jailhouse snitches who would be more than happy to blab. But the couple does manage to figure out how to meet up right under everyone's noses to consumate their romance.


There is a certain screen chemistry between Perez and Jean and Perez manages to come off as a bad ass in her own right. Jean, not so much as it is clear that he is no

for anyone in the prison, let alone Manaury. Nevertheless there is a certain believability to their performances. Cabral gets great prison shots that depict the miserable conditions the prisoners must get accustomed.


Woodpeckers" (Carpinteros) is a well produced and well acted romantic prison drama that introduces you to the world of third world correctional systems and how love can find a way. [Spanish w/English subtitles]   -- GEOFF BURTON