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More than one million Haitians live next door to their homeland in the Dominican Republic. They are the country’s biggest minority, and face widespread discrimination despite the fact that as many as half were born there. Taking up the story of these migrants, many of them undocumented, Cristo Rey finds focus in Janvier, a kind-hearted teenager of mixed Haitian/ Dominican descent.
We meet Janvier in the chaotic streets of Cristo Rey, a crime-ridden barrio of Santo Domingo where the cops play by their own rules and turn a blind eye to the activities of those who pay them off. Proud of his Haitian heritage, Janvier shuns his lighter-skinned father and rebellious half-brother as he tries to carve out an honest existence. But he longs for a better life, free from police harassment, and enough money to reunite with his mother back in Haiti. When he gets the chance to make some extra cash playing bodyguard to Jocelyn, the beautiful younger sister of the local drug kingpin, Janvier finds it hard to refuse. But as the two develop an intense connection, Janvier is forced to make a difficult choice.
Director Leticia Tonos Paniagua brings together a talented cast of newcomers for this unique, Caribbean retelling ofRomeo and Juliet. Her leads are attractive and charismatic, but more importantly they feel genuinely plucked from the neighbourhood. With its percussive opening music, its sense of place and its depiction of a dangerous and urgent romance, Paniagua gives Cristo Rey the pulse of a hot city.