This is what a Caribbean film festival looks like

I understood what Latin pride really is when I saw a crowd of local celebrities dressed in white – it was the White Night Party – run under the stage and bring out the phone en masse. There was to resume the concert of José Luis Rodríguez González better known as El Puma, icon máxima from Venezuela, crooner to Julio Iglesias but also the face of telenovelas, idol of the crowds especially today that he returned to perform after the double lung transplant of three years ago. This would already be a beautiful film. Then, there was everything else.

Set: a tropical paradise, the Dominican Republic, or rather its western end, Punta Cana, a literal watershed between the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. Cast: local and international names, actors and TV personalities, stars and generones as befits any similar happening. Director: Raquel known as Raquelita Flores, daughter of the very blond Venezuelan Raquel Bernal, who does the honors of the house with the Infanta and signs what, by eye, seems to be the first totally matriarchal festival in history. Title: Cana Dorada International Film Festival, number one or rather zero, since, on the eve, everything was still to be invented. "I'm mainly here because of my friendship with Raquel," says Paz Vega, one of the invited international stars. Which returns to Latin pride: "It is the link that holds everything together." It is living proof of this: she was born in Spain, is married to a Venezuelan, works all over the world.

So I have not imagined it, this thing of pride is true, after all the intention of the Festival seems exactly that, to find a place that acts as a crossroads between Central-South America and Hollywood, passing by but not too much. There is Paul Haggis, screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and Oscar-winning director fifteen years ago for Crash – Physical contact (surprisingly: everyone thought it would be up to him Secrets of Brokeback Mountain by Ang Lee); and superproducer Avi Lerner, that of action sagas like the Expendables is Power attack; and precisely Paz Vega, European, yes, but also among the faces of the last Rambo with the immiscible Sly. There is ours, at least a little, Lola Ponce, clinging to her handsome husband Aarón Díaz, an actor with four million followers on Instagram, she from Argentina, he from Mexico, the connections between peoples are no longer counted.

The eye will also be on Hollywood, but it is Latin pride, always he, who dictates the agenda. The first evening a docufiction is presented to the game of Thrones on the history of Santo Domingo Nebaj, Guatemalan title already awarded at various festivals, trailers of future films on local narcos are shown. The notorious "splendid setting" this time is for real, first the sciampagnino on the red carpet and then everyone at the cinema which is inside a cenote (but without water) hidden among the palm trees of Eden Roc, here also the hotels know of jungle of pirates. You should always see films like this, sunk into velvet sofas, with a very high definition screen even if outdoors and girls dressed as Betty Boop who offer you hot popcorn. Old and new America together, and go with another link.

Cinema inside the cave of the Cana Dorada Film & Music Festival. Photo: Daniele Venturelli

Latin pride is quick to infect you. The brunette who presents the evenings – Zuleyka Rivera, I read about the program – is Puerto Rican and was a Miss Universe crowned by Trump, then – I find out at the party of the last evening – the female protagonist of the video Despacito: there is everything, nothing is missing. And, of course, there are parties, with Latinos you don't go to sleep after the film. The parties and, first, the magnificent dinners set up in places that cannot be missing from the map of Caribbean luxury (the golf club, the equestrian club, the marina with yachts), among huge balls of roses as a centerpiece (we don't dare ask for the price ) and lobster and asado dishes. Here all the links are connected: the model, more than just a festival, is an event where you can network, dance and chat, and exchange telephone numbers for future projects. The film before the evening screenings, after all, launched the Dominican Republic as the ideal location for the film sets to come: not at all wrong. If Puglia has made it (or rather: Apulia), this Tropic film commission can well overcome it.

Let's go back to dance alongside the divine Madalina Ghenea, beauty of another species but without poses, indeed full of irony, which literally stands out above all and is together with the group of Italians: it was me, and the producers Nicola and Marco De Angelis rewarded for the series Baby, and "their" teen star Lorenzo Zurzolo, and the director Andrea De Sica, who makes slow-motion videos with the iPhone, also taken by the orgullo all around.

Arrived on the last evening, the number zero seems successful, very successful indeed. It will be the ocean air, it will be the local spirit, it will be what it will be, but you can perceive the joy and not the tiredness of certain festivals from uplift and badges around the neck, with the guests and the accredited ones who, between a screening and the other, they only have time to snort. We will book for number two next year, I promise to launch myself under the stage for El Puma.

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