The ongoing Black Lounge Films series in Miami will present a one-night-only screening of Woodpeckers next week featuring a special guest from the movie. Lead actress Judith Rodriguez will be there to present the film and join in a discussion after the movie. Woodpeckers was the Dominican Republic’s entry to this year’s Foreign Language Oscar competition. It was also the 2017 Foreign Language Film Entry at Sundance and first ever Dominican Republic entry at the Festival. The film focuses on a man and a woman serving time in neighboring Santo Domingo prisons who begin communicating with one another through a coded language called “woodpecking.” Despite the physical gulf dividing them, they end up falling in love.
“Woodpeckers is action-packed, raw, unique and has some brilliant performances,” says Rachelle Salnave, co-founder of Black Lounge Films. “It’s a unique film that was shot in a real life prison, with everyone but the lead actors being inmates.”
Salnave, who, along with Black Lounge Films co-founder Jean H. Marcelin, is Haitian-American, also notes that the film offers a taste of the diversity of the Caribbean culture that many in South Florida will be able to relate with. “It was also interesting that the film touched upon the perception of Haitians in the Dominican Republic while also serving as a metaphor to explore the relationship between these two countries that share the same land,” she notes.
As Haitian-Americans living in South Florida, Salnave and Marcelin have keen awareness that despite the diverse mixture of culture in and around Miami, these cultures quite often don’t mix enough. “Even though Miami was a melting pot of Caribbean cultures, it felt very segregated to us,” reveals Salnave, who is a first generation born New Yorker after her family emigrated from Haiti.
She and Marcelin began working together to promote films about the Haitian experience in South Florida in 2014. Salnave moved to the area seven years ago after being a regular visitor for years. In 2016 their Black Lounge Films project won a Knight Arts Challenge grant. Since February, the series has featured monthly screening events in Overtown covering that diversity, and Woodpeckers is no exception. Says Salnave, “We also thought about using the film series to break the segregation within our own community by selecting films that explored other countries in the diaspora and use these films to break down stereotypes like the Haitian film Kafou [last month’s featured film], the Dominican Republic film Carpinteros (Woodpeckers) and a few other continental African films we have lined up.”
With this unique monthly global black experience of film, Salnave and Marcelin fulfill a vision to give black film a special platform in Miami’s most famous black neighborhood: Overtown. Salnave notes that the neighborhood was part of the inspiration for the series. “We love Overtown since it’s a small reminder of where we are from … I am originally from Harlem and Jean is from Brooklyn. They once called Overtown the Harlem of the South.”
Woodpeckers runs 106 minutes, is in Spanish with English subtitles and screens one night only, on Friday, June 15, at 7 p.m. with actress Judith Rodriguez Perez appearing, at the Overtown Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $13 and $5 for Overtown Residents and are available via this link.