// Presented as part of February's Foreign Language Oscar Series //
Laura Amelia Guzmán & Israel Cárdenas / 2014, Toronto, Cairo, Chicago, Fribourg, Guadalajara, Havana, Morelia, Palm Springs, Rome / 80'
Las Terrenas is a sun-saturated, languorous resort town on the coast of the Dominican Republic: a place where time ceases to exist, where memory and desire take hold. Anne is a wealthy Parisian woman who has perhaps come here, too, to forget. Only she is desperately in love with Noelí, a local girl Anne pays for sex. The ethereal, older Anne and young, proud Noelí don't make the most intuitive pair, especially seeing that Noelí uses her earnings to support her boyfriend Yeremi, who she pretends is her brother in public. But the hope and desperation of an impossible love fuel Anne's affections; she invites Noelí to return with her to Paris.
By focusing on a relationship between two women, and refusing to engage in tropes of power dynamics between the two, filmmakers Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas deconstruct common stereotypes of sex-tourism and embark on an inquiry into the epistemology of love itself. Sand Dollars premiered at Toronto and Chicago where it won the FIPRESCI Prize; Geraldine Chaplin won Best Actress at both Havana and Chicago for her tour-de-force performance of Anne. Sand Dollars was selected as the Dominican entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
"Ms. Chaplin, in one of her most touching screen performances, imbues Anne with a world-weary melancholy that makes your heart sink. She is in love, despite her better judgment. And her paramour loves her back— a little... Variations of the same mutual exploitation are explored in Ulrich Seidl's cruel, corrosive comedy Paradise: Love, set in Kenya, and in Laurent Cantet's deeper, more tragic Heading South, set in Haiti. Desire may dwindle with the passing years, but the memory of it is always there, lurking somewhere, waiting to be reawakened in a sultry tropical climate when there is time to dream"
- Stephen Holden, Film Review, New York Times Critics' Pick
"Enchanting and thoughtful... Playing out against a dreamy Caribbean backdrop, Sand Dollars is indeed about dreams, unpicking those of a gracefully aging lady and her young lover with a trembling delicacy and attentiveness"
- Jonathan Holland, Toronto Review, The Hollywood Reporter
"Remarkable sensitivity and exacting verisimilitude are just two of the many selling points for Sand Dollars, a psychologically nuanced portrait, set in the Dominican Republic, of an older American woman in an unequal lesbian relationship with a much younger local. A further plus is Geraldine Chaplin, finally given a serious, uncaricatured role worthy of her talents. Co-writing/helming duo Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas have delivered their best film yet, and their perceptive, nonjudgmental handling of all parties is quickly being recognized by fests worldwide"
- Jay Weissberg, Rome Review, Variety
"It's entirely appropriate that the word 'sand' appears in the title of this film by co-written and co-directed by husband and wife team Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán, adapted from the book by Jean-Noël Pancrazi. The word is redolent of shifting landscapes, by natural or manmade drift, and changing textures, from fine to coarse— elements that are crucial to and carefully navigated by the film... Beautifully shot by Israel Cárdenas and Jaime Guerra, there is an emphasis on light and shade, with scenes involving the two women swimming or dancing almost tactile in their vibrancy. This is a film filled with longing that, appropriately, leaves us yearning for more"
- Amber Wilkinson, Film Review, Eye for Film
"Quietly touching Sand Dollars respects and plumbs the feelings of all three main characters while surfacing the economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender power imbalances in their relationships"
- Elise Nakhnikian, Film Review, Slant Magazine
"An artful and slyly political example of contemporary art cinema informed by the ethos of the New Wave"
- Katie Walsh, Film Review, Los Angeles Times
"This is about people in love, how far we will go for love, and how blind love can make us, no matter what our age... A minimalist and yet intense film"
- Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Cairo Review, Screen Anarchy