The Best Chilean Features at Valdivia's Film Festival

Southern chile's river city Valdivia exploded in early October with national and international film lovers of all stripes for the city's 19th international film festival. Competitions for feature length and short films, talks with prolific international directors, screenings of cult classics, and civil rights and musical documentaries are just a handful of the diverse offerings throughout the week. However, one of the best views into contemporary Chilean cinema was the feature length competition for Chilean directors. Of the seven different films selected for the competition, five made their world premiers in Valdivia.

Donde Vuelan Los Condores (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)
Donde Vuelan Los Condores (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)

Donde Vuelan los Condores (Where the Condors Fly)

Claiming the prize for Chilean feature length film, Donde Vuelan Los Condores does a kind of feverish deconstruction of the film, director, audience paradigm. Chilean narrator/director Carlos Klein's film is about Russian documentary filmmaker, Victor Kossakovsky making his film Long Live the Antipodes making for a series of stories within stories and reflections of reflections that fascinate and perplex. At the film's opening, Klein admits that he feels disillusioned by filmmaking and bogged down by an overload of senseless images. Donde Vuelan los Condores becomes a study of the passion of another filmmaker in hopes to find newfound meaning and pertinence in the art, where process and transformation itself is just as critical as the final product.

Aquí Estoy, Aquí No (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)
Aquí Estoy, Aquí No (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)

Aqui Estoy, Aqui No (Here I Am, Here I'm not)

Another stand out performance was found in Aqui Estoy, Aqui No, the second feature film from up and coming director Elisa Eliash. Unlike many independent films that strive to discover something profound about the human condition, Eliash admits that she "just wants the audience to have fun." However, Aqui Estoy, Aqui No is much more than simply entertaining. The film's mildly obese and depressed main character navigates incongruous and strange circumstances that appear simple at the beginning of the film and gradually decline into convoluted territory where the viewer is left wondering who is who, what comes next, and whether or not what comes next has in fact already happened. Eliash comments that this deterioration reflects her distrust of the three part beginning-middle-end narrative. "The film provides three possible endings, and at the same time doesn't provide anything." Despite breaking away from a linear story arc, Aqui Estoy, Aqui No remains magnetic and entertaining at every twist. Aesthetically washed in bright colors, riddled with sidesplitting moments of comic relief, and accompanied by a wild jazz soundtrack, this is a film that feels truly fresh.

La Última Estación (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)
La Última Estación (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)

La Última Estación (Last Season)

While undeniably slow in its progression, La Última Estación, offers an intimate glance into the lives of the residents of nearly ten different old age homes near Santiago. The movie was shot over the course of five years, as director Chrisitán Soto spent time living in the nursing homes for months before he began filming. "We went to stay at the homes, to live with the residents, we slept there, and ate the same food they ate. They started to get used to our presence" he told Revolver. What this curious and almost anthropological tactic achieves is that residents don't seem to notice the camera or pay attention to it. Seasons change, days come and go, while the film's characters are largely unmoving--they breath in and out heavily, their eyes open and close, waiting for the inevitable. "(In Chile) senior citizens are isolated and pushed out to the edges of the world in which we live. I tried to bring this theme of age and aging into the forefront" says Soto.

A Primera Hora (At First Light)

A Primera Hora depicts the grim reality of farm workers in rural southern Chile. Slow moving and deliberate, Patricio and Alex struggle to make a living amidst an ever more bleak economic reality. Jobs are few and far between, farms lay off workers, and milk processing centers close their doors for the last time. Thanks to director Javier Correa's excellent cinematographic direction, A Primera Hora manages to bring at least aesthetic beauty to an actually dismal situation.

Chaitén (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)
Chaitén (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)

Chaitén

In Chaitén, directed by Anibel Jofre and Diego Ayala, a fictitious narrative about protagonist Mariano overlays the actual reality of small town Chaitén in southern Chile. Chaitén was covered by a cloud of ash from a nearby volcano in 2008, devastating local infrastructure and the lives of the town's residents. Since then, locals have struggled to collect the pieces of what the ash left behind, and to reconnect to the rest of Chile, although when the film takes place the town remains largely without electricity or running water. The film zigzags between rough and intimate shots where the camera seems to sit on Mariano's shoulder, and still and wide images of the epic landscape in Chaitén.

Partir to Live (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)
Partir to Live (image courtesy of FIC Valdivia)

Partir to Live (Leave to Live)

Perhaps the most experimental of the films in this competition, Partir to Live directed by Domingo Garcia- Huidobro, plays with sepia tones, low contrast, both grainy and high resolution image and lacks any semblance of a traditional plot structure. The film chops and remixes shots of one man, apparently at two different points in his life, who seems obsessed by the experience of some kind of supernatural encounter. Garcia-Huidobro, who was not terribly helpful in terms of shedding light on an otherwise dense film, when asked to explain the fact that it was based on a series of dreams said, "Yes, it was based on a series of dreams I had," ...period.

La Chupilca del diablo (The Devil´s Liqueur)

Inspired by the life of director Ignacio Rodriguez's grandfather, La Chupilca del Diablo follows the life of Eladio, a disgruntled and miserly old man, who owns a liqueur factory with a dying business and one overworked and underpaid employee. Having devoted his life bullishly to his business, Eladio alienated his wife, children and coworkers along the way, ending up in profound solitude by the time the film takes place. When Eladio's deadbeat and troubled grandson comes to work at the factory Eladio is offered a chance for transformation. Just as it appears Eladio will break out of his shell, a climactic fight with his grandson pushes him into territory of solitude forever.

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