Austin Film Festival: Beast of Cardo
Greek mythology and magical realism converge in this drama
By Josh Kupecki,
9:50AM, Mon. Oct. 27, 2014
With touches of magical realism and an insightful view of a suffocating high society, Beast of Cardo is a beguiling drama with arresting imagery, strong performances, and some interesting allegory.
We first meet Moira (Virginia Sanchez Navarro) in the back of a taxi, and she does not look happy. A grad student in New York, she’s returning to Cardo, a town in the Dominican Republic where she grew up. It is the Christmas season, so perhaps she’s returning for the holidays, but the reason is never explicitly made clear. She is the daughter of one of the two upper-class families who hold sway in the town. Years ago, she fled, perhaps because of a scandalous fling, perhaps in pursuit of higher education, but now she has returned, and the oppression hits her immediately. Surrounded by domineering parents and gossipy relatives and hangers-on, she finds respite in a burgeoning friendship with a gay tailor, Hermes (Jorge Luis Moreno), who is gunning for a spot in the yearly fashion competition run by the head of the rival family, Onelia (Karina Noble). The two form an unlikely bond, and Hermes (true to his name) may hold the key to Moira’s escape.
Beast of Cardo oscillates between keen social commentary and fantastical drama. Writer/director/actor Navarro blends various fairy tale tropes with a fatalistic view of a parochial society that is eating its own tail. Some of the imagery veers toward metaphoric heavy-handedness, but overall, the film is an entrancing dissection of the idle and self-absorbed elite that also dips into mythology, allegory, and nudges against the fourth wall. Beast of Cardo is an ambitious first feature, and if this is indicative of films coming from the burgeoning film industry of the Dominican Republic, there is much to be hopeful for.
Beast of Cardo screens again on Monday, Oct. 27, 9:30pm, at the Galaxy Highland Theatre.