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Feature film: Caretaker (El hombre que cuida)

Director: Alejandro Andújar

Starring: Héctor Anibal, Fiora Cruz, Paula Ferry

Directly translated to ‘The Man Who Cares’, El hombre que cuida is a poignant social commentary on racism, classism and patriarchy in the Dominican Republic told through the story of a fisherman-turned-caretaker of an ostentatious beach house in the small village of Palmar de Ocoa.

Caretaker is established screenwriter Alejandro Andújar’s debut directorship, which he co-produced in Spanish with Amelia del Mar Hernández. It was Hernández’s childhood vacations to her family beach house in Palmar – serviced by two housekeepers – which form the story’s conceptual springboard.

The film follows Juan (Héctor Anibal) as he obsessively maintains and safeguards the second home of Don Victor (Archie Lopez) and his son Rich (Yasser Michelén), part of the wealthy elite in the Dominican Republic’s highly stratified society. Having foregone a livelihood of fishing and freedom to support his wife, Juan is heartbroken, angered but largely passive when his wife falls pregnant with another man’s child. 

When Rich and his Cuban friend bring a local woman Belkys (Eyra Aguero Joubert) for a weekend of alcohol, drugs and sex, Juan’s submission to the demands and final grievous deed of his employer’s entitled son are revealed for what they are – the result of systemic socio-economic inequality. Depicting a society where black and female bodies are discarded when used up, Caretaker is extremely relevant for a South African audience.

Speaking at last night’s screening, Hernández noted these similarities between the Dominican Republic and South Africa as the rationale for bringing the film to the DIFF. She noted that “it is interesting to travel 22 hours to a country (South Africa) where the issues are so similar to ours”. For Hernández, film is an important artform which creates meaningful dialogue around such uncomfortable but important concerns.

Drinking the boss’s expensive whiskey is Juan’s way of giving his unfair and heart-wrenching situation the middle finger. Unfortunately for both him and Belkys, while small rebellions may provide temporary satisfaction, the audience knows by the end of the film that the status quo in Palmar remains largely unchanged.   

DIFF runs from 13 to 23 July in various venues across Durban. 


This story emanates from the Student Media Lab, a collaborative student-reporting project spearheaded by the Centre for Communication Media and Society in partnership with The Durban International Film Festival. The views of this article reflect the opinions of the student reviewer, Megan Lewis. Lewis has hung-up the 9-to-5 office shoes and joined the ranks of freelancers in Durban as a content writer and editor.