Remembering Fernando Báez, Family and Friends Pay Tribute to the Renowned Dominican Filmmaker in the Latest GFDD Dominican Get-Together

July 16, 2019

New York, July 16, 2019 – Last Friday, July 12, in the latest installment in its Dominican Get-Togethers series, GFDD New York offered an intimate evening of commemoration of the late filmmaker Fernando Báez Mella, including a chat with his family members María Cordero de Báez and Arturo Báez and a screening of his nature documentary Imagen Nacional: Montañas, Ríos y Saltos.

Fernando Báez Mella (1957–2018), of Bonao, Dominican Republic, grew up in a family of photographers and filmmakers and was the grandson of Tuto Báez, director of the country’s first feature film. Báez Mella himself directed 13 films, among them the Dominican Republic’s 2017 Oscar contribution Flor de Azúcar and an array of documentaries on nature and conservation, particularly in the Dominican Republic, as well as social issues.

Given Báez’s long-standing collaboration with GFDD’s film and cultural programming and the US Dominican community, last Friday’s Dominican Get-Together event—held at CODOCUL, the Dominican Commission of Culture in the United States—drew various distinguished guests such as ambassador Juan Ávila, of the Dominican Republic Permanent Mission to the United Nations; Armando Guareno, founder/director of the Dominican Film Festival and close family friend of the late filmmaker; and Rudy Fuertes, member of the GFDD Board of Directors.

The evening began with an introduction by Yamile Eusebio Paulino, director of GFDD’s New York office, who noted that the evening aimed to be as special as the artist being honored, and introduced Benjamin García of CODUCUL. García highlighted that CODUCUL’s theater had witnessed several screenings of the films of Fernando Baéz, with the most recent being in December 2017 with a private viewing of Flor de Azúcar.

After the playing of a 20-minute video biography of Báez, Eusebio invited María Cordero de Báez and Arturo Báez—the late director’s wife and son, respectively—to share stories of his professional and family life with the audience. Cordero recalled the nascence of the half-hour documentary that would be screened later that evening: the firm E. Leon Jiménez, one of the Dominican Republic’s largest companies, had announced a filmmaking contest in 1993 to stimulate interest in the environment. Báez entered and won, whereupon he set out to film the more than 300 4-minute shorts showcasing the country’s natural splendor that would eventually become Imagen Nacional.

Arturo Báez, himself a producer and photographer, discussed growing up as a fourth-generation audiovisual artist among his father’s cables and cameras during filmmaking projects. He credited this experience with bestowing him with the love of all things audiovisual that would grow into a professional career.

Fernando Báez himself, during his lifetime, appeared at multiple GFDD events, most recently as special guest during a Dominican Film Showcase screening of Flor de Azúcar in Washington, D.C., in November 2016. He also appeared on a panel at a GFDD parallel event to the UN’s High-Level Meeting on Climate Change in 2015. In a roundtable prior to a screening of his film Lake Enriquillo: Prelude to Climate Change, he emphasized that climate change is “more than a myth—it’s a fact.” Finally, Báez was the protagonist of a Dominican Get-Together in New York in 2013, when he offered his take on the state of the Dominican filmmaking and the effect of a law on the film industry introduced by GFDD president Leonel Fernández during his tenure as president of the Republic.

GFDD’s Dominican Get-Togethers initiative brings a new event to the Dominican diaspora community in New York every three months. The events offer audiences a chance to see a Dominican movie, meet a prominent Dominican visual artist, and discuss issues of interest to help fortify the link between members of the diaspora and their Caribbean home.