After the film, TIFF held an extended Q & A with the lead actors, James Saintil ("Janvier") and Yasser Michelén ("Rudy"), which was preceded by a video from the director, Leticia Tonos Paniagua. Now nine months pregnant, she was unable to be in attendance, but shared why she wanted to make the film and why it is important, points later reiterated by both Saintil and Michelén. Tonos made a comment which I found surprising, that the Dominican Republic did not achieve its independence from Spain, but rather from Haiti. This fact makes the issue of immigration more immediate and understandable as a major point of contention in Cristo Rey. Throughout the panel, which also included Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs here in Toronto, the guests revisited the issue of racism again and again. To demonstrate the depths of racism experienced even on the set of the film, Yasser Michelén told of technicians on the film crew asking him how he could even want to kiss Akari Endo (playing "Jocelyn") after James Saintil, a black man (playing "Janvier"), had kissed her. This obviously was shocking and saddening to the actors, and I'm sure to the director, but it's a reality with which they live and a reality experienced in the Dominican Republic. Tonos, Saintil and Michelén all made it clear that this must change, and that they hope that Cristo Rey can be a part of that positive change to defeat racism.
I love this film. Tonos has created a film that is aesthetically beautiful, painfully honest and stunningly brave.
Cristo Rey is distributed by the French distributor Equation.
Follow the film on Twitter @CristoReyMovie
Find the director, Leticia Tonos, on Facebook at leticia.t.paniagua
Follow Akari Endo ("Jocelyn") on Twitter @AkariEndo
"The Making of Cristo Rey"
(video in Spanish with French subtitles)