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zachary.hawkins
nytimes.com - 9 days ago

Review: ‘Woodpeckers,’ a Tale of Love and Agonizing Penal Confinement

José María Cabral’s arresting drama “Woodpeckers (Carpinteros)” could be called love in a pressure cooker, but that would be understating its vivid textures and palpable vitality.
The film was shot on location in the Dominican Republic’s Najayo and La Victoria prisons, where the stifling claustrophobia of those settings infuses every frame. Video A preview of the film. Internet Video Archive Julián (the Haitian-Dominican actor and filmmaker Jean Jean), who has been convicted of theft, is shorn of his resplendent dreadlocks when he is sent to Najayo, where he quickly learns the sign language — “woodpecking” — that the inmates employ to communicate and flirt from afar with the female inmates at an adjacent penitentiary. (An elevated fenced enclosure looks out at their athletic area.) Mr. Jean with Judith Rodriguez as his girlfriend Yanelly in “Woodpeckers.” Outsider Pictures Julián also serves as a proxy for Manaury (Ramón Emilio Candelario), a hotheaded drug dealer, who has been barred from communicating directly with his incarcerated “girlfriend,” Yanelly (Judith Rodríguez). When Julián himself catches Yanelly’s eye, and she his, tensions escalate between Julián and Manaury, and the men are relocated to the even more oppressive La Victoria.
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