Inspired by a ghastly episode in Puerto Rico’s political history during the first half of the twentieth century, The Condemned explores the damaging effects of the past in a town battling collective guilt and the results of coerced cooperation.
In the 1930s, Dr. Cornelius Rhoads, a prestigious American scientist conducting cancer-related experiments in Puerto Rico, boasted in writing of having killed more than eight Puerto Ricans as part of his plan to cleanse the Island from locals. This little-known episode in the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States inspired writer/director Roberto Busó-García to weave an allegorical tale exploring the destructive powers of the past on a Puerto Rican town.
“Beyond the reprehensible event itself, I was also interested in the general lack of reaction. Not only back then, but ever since. We wrote a story that studies the effects of denial and suppressed guilt in a group of people—particularly when the past returns to haunt them,” noted Busó-García.
The fictional town of Rosales is a place where people keep to themselves, hidden in their decrepit homes avoiding each other. Though mostly silent and inert, when the family that facilitated their terrible existence returns, they are inevitably attracted to visit them.
While some of the townspeople try to get young Ana Puttnam to leave, the house itself strives to force her to accept the horrors of the past. At first relentless, Ana is frustrated time and again by strange happenings inside the mansion.
As the story evolves, the audience slowly becomes part of this town, as it silently witnesses the events unfold on screen from the vantage point of the observer, realizing they can’t do anything about it.
The townspeople are so haunted by their past that they have lost their identity, their will to live, their drive to better their own existence. In fact, their few actions are violent and they don’t seem to have a way out.
“Hopefully by the end of the story, the audience feels a bit like the characters in the film: trapped by the decisions made in the past and aware of the futility of repeating such behavior in the future,” added the director.
“Though it’s loosely based on the historical lack of action towards a specific incident, I think it speaks volumes to a lot of the issues we have faced as Puerto Ricans. Mainly, how our struggle for identity combined with external pressures have sometimes forced us into inaction and false complacency,” noted Busó-García.
The Condemned explores the damaging effects that centuries of colonial rule may have on a place. Interweaved with tension and suspense, it’s a story where the past is a protagonist-- a cautionary tale for our times that follows a group of people as they quietly but violently fight against themselves in search of redemption.