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Machismo Laid Bare in Dominican Jose Maria Cabral’s ‘Tiger’ (‘Tiguere’)

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Among the Copia Final titles in Ventana Sur, the Dominican Republic’s “Tiger” (“Tiguere”) by lauded filmmaker José María Cabral (“Woodpeckers”) casts a harsh light on the machismo culture of the Caribbean nation and by extension, Latin America.

Shot in a lush mountain retreat, “Tiger” is set in a boot camp where families drop off their teenage sons with the hope that they learn to become “real men.” It is led by boot camp head Alberto, who decides that his son Pablo, an aspiring artist, is ready to join the camp. Naturally, Pablo rebels, which leads to some dire consequences.

Drawing from his own personal experience at a similar boot camp and inspiration from such classics as Beau Travail,” “The Rider” and “Honey Boy,” Cabral co-penned his semi-autobiographical drama with Cuban writers Arturo Arango, Nuri Duarte, Xenia Rivery and Alan González.

“Towards the end of the ’90s, my parents sent me to a camp called La Clase de Tigueraje. I was a very introverted child, bad at sports, shy, insecure, sensitive, and all that was a red alert for Dominican society,” Cabral recalled, adding: “Boys couldn’t be like that, so there was a camp that aimed to turn us into “Tígueres.”

“Tígueraje is a concept used in my country to describe people who are wise, opportunistic, but also often associated with many macho characteristics,” he explained.

“Obviously, since it’s a personal experience, it led me to reflect on what is expected of men in our society, both in Latin America, the world, and in this case, the Caribbean,” he mused.  

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To cast his film, he used both seasoned and non-pro actors.  Carlos Fernández, who plays Pablo, is a Cuban actor who has worked in series and telenovelas in Cuba. The father is played by Dominican-American actor Manny Perez, whose credits include the surprise box office hit, “The Sound of Freedom” as well as crime drama “La Soga.”  

“La Clase de Tigueraje aimed to shape teenagers into strong, homophobic, aggressive men, devoid of emotions and other patterns of toxic masculinity that are now being questioned by new generations. Hopefully, this film invites that reflection,” said Cabral who pointed out that the camps run today have changed, given the shift from such archaic ideas, but “unfortunately, the country and society still expect us men to be ‘Tígueres.’”

Whether reliving his experience while making this film was cathartic, Cabral concluded: “It was liberating.”

“Changes don’t happen so quickly. I believe it was crucial to make this film and revisit that traumatic past I experienced as a teenager. We’ll have to see how this process matures over time; at least now, we can see the wound.”

Throughout his career, Cabral has explored themes that have personally affected him, as in “Tiger” or “The Projectionist” as well as the social issues in “Woodpeckers” (“Carpinteros”), which delved into the reality of prisons. He’s also been interested in historical cinema, as displayed in “Perejil” and “Hotel Copelia.”

He noted: “I am now developing a project around a historical event in the Dominican Republic during the 1970s, a pivotal moment that left a lasting impact on a significant part of Latin American history; I am very excited!” 

Source: Variety

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