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CARAJITA (2021, HOME) – 7.5/10

A striking combination of drama and thriller comes to us from the Dominican Republic, and the Argentinian – Spanish screenwriter – director duo Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra bring a story that deals with the Caribbean colonial past, as well as the present, in a smart and thoughtful way. We would literally translate the term carajita as slut, but in this case a better choice would be spoiled brat and it refers to one of the two main protagonists, the teenage Sara. She is a member of a rich family that returned to the Dominican Republic after several years of living abroad, and it is suspected that her father is engaged in some not quite legally clean business.

As an attached member of the family, they have always considered the housekeeper – maid – nanny Yarisa (Magnolia Nunez), a black woman who has not even gotten to tell her family that she has returned home. The attached family member should not take this literally, because this is the kind of relationship with the “household blacks” that the landowners in the American South once had. They are good with them and are devoted to them as long as it suits them, and until the situation gets complicated and until the choice of their family or the black helper appears, then there is really no choice. Yaris will find herself in an almost similar situation, whose daughter Mallory, a girl of the same age as Sara, will be found dead by the side of the road after a party where Sara and her brother took her.

Someone obviously picked her up with a car and left her to die by the side of the road, and this tragedy will put the close and intimate relationship of not only Sara and Yarisa, but also the entire family with the black, poor maid to a great test. “Carajita” was a fine social and psychological study, somewhat enigmatic and full of symbolism, visually and stylistically interesting, which thematically somewhat continues on “Headless Woman” by Argentinian Lucrecia Martel. Primarily, it is a drama about class relations and the way in which the privileged and those who seem to be able to do everything function, and those whom they look upon as their only purpose of existence is to serve them.

“Carajita” premiered at the festival in San Sebastian, where Schnicer and Porra received the award for new directors. So even though the topic of exploring the relationship between the privileged and those who are not has been dealt with countless times in films coming from Latin America, it was done smartly and authentically. So we see that Sarah’s family members are willing to do anything to find out what happened to Mallory, until they realize that it wouldn’t be the smartest thing for them to do. We also see members of Yaris’ real family who are angry with her because she dedicated her whole life to raising other people’s children and taking care of another family, and this is what she got for it. Both Sara and her older brother, an even more spoiled and proud member of the golden youth, we see that they feel a certain remorse and emptiness for being who they are, but they are not ready to make sacrifices and risks to change that either.