There were so many things to see in our trip to the DR, so many exquisite moments to observe. Yet the feeling of a place is hard to describe. While our sense of the visual guided us in our travels, the hundreds (thousands?) of pictures we brought back don’t fully capture our experience. We encountered numerous feelings there as well. As Ruben conveys in his own blog post, there are a zillion stories each of us could tell about this trip. I want to tell a story about the range of feelings we experienced in our travels that inform the film we are making.
This time, I felt more at home in the DR than ever before. I was at ease in this culture I have spent the last 6 years learning from and adapting to (and adopting). I also felt immediately part of a team—joining folks I hardly knew or had just met upon arrival—and we hit the ground running. It being my first time making a film, I went in feeling extremely nervous about being responsible for “doing sound.” I carried that feeling with me the first day or two but soon learned that if I was uncertain about anything I was doing there always guidance and support (and lots of encouragement). I felt part of a team where my contributions were valued; my endless ideas were welcomed. And it was easy to fold my friend Michelle Ricardo into the mix; she joined us for the first part of our trip, went right to work, and quickly became an integral part of the team as well. We were on a road trip together, hopping in and out of our rental car as we traversing the western part of the country, from Elías Piña to Barahona to Cabral. Our team truly came together around a love for the Dominican Republic and curiosity about its culture and traditions. I imagine the people interviewed and met along the way could feel that too.olks I hardly knew or had just met upon arrival—and we hit the ground running. It being my first time making a film, I went in feeling extremely nervous about being responsible for “doing sound.” I carried that nervou
As a team, we marveled at so many shared experiences. Much of what we witnessed and tried to capture on film about gaga and las cachuas (the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the energy of it all) were unexpected and unchoreographed. Whether stopping on the roadside to film a gaga troupe traveling house to house, or visiting the compound of the mambosa La Jeannette for an interview—and having a gut response to the spiritual power of the space—at each moment we felt the experience. Over and over again we would turn to each other and ask, “Did you feel that?” Standing on la tierra de nadie (no man’s land) at the border of the DR and Haiti was a feeling. Recording an interview one clear night inside a circle of youth who were hushed in respect for Cun Cun, the queen of gaga…this too, was a feeling. And we were standing right in the middle of it.
Roaming the Dominican Republic during semana santa was about immersing ourselves in an energy different from any I have known elsewhere. There was a surprise around every corner. Wherever we found ourselves, as we moved through our days, we might suddenly hear drums beating, see the bright colors of gaga, or look up to find mascaras running past. These youth in traditional costumes would appear on the horizon, move past us on the street, and just as quickly disappear again. The nature of the holiday and the many traditions that surround it were clear–cultural traditions of African origin, the synchronicity of present day religious practices, and the interdependency of Haitian and Dominican culture apparent. This story of cimarrón culture revealed itself all around us throughout our trip…like a vibration, a rhythm, and a pulse.