January 1st (Primero de Enero) (Dominican Republic)
One of the most enjoyable Caribbean-set films in the festival wasn’t originally a Caribbean story at all. Costa Rican director Erika Bagnarello intended to make January 1st in her home country until a last-minute change of plans forced production to shift to the Dominican Republic. The relocation proved to be a blessing in disguise, however; the new setting adds a layer of depth and timeliness that the story may not have had in its original setting. It follows Sebastian, a bold, precocious Dominican boy, and his friendship with Francis, a tap tap bus driver from Haiti who aids him on a journey to recover a stolen piano. When Sebastian’s misadventures lead to Francis’ deportation, the viewer is forced to confront the real-life plight of Haitians in the Dominican Republic (a situation which made international headlines this summer). Despite all of this, January 1st is far from political; rather, it is an insightful window into a child’s world.