'Joven y Alocada:' Chile’s sexual movida hits the big screen

The opening scene of Joven y Alocada decisively sets the tone: Daniela wakes up in a living room full of other sleeping teenagers and quietly masturbates before getting up to go meet her family at Sunday mass. For the explicit contents and the themes it tackles, the film Joven y alocada (Young and Wild) is a UFO that has recently crash landed in Chilean cinemas.

 Joven y Alocada (2012)
Joven y Alocada (2012)

The movie follows the life of Daniela, a bisexual teenage girl who attempts to navigate between her curiosity for life and sex and the stifling atmosphere of her evangelical family. Daniela is a self-defined evangelais, belonging to this social category of Evangelicals living an upper-middle class lifestyle (people from this category are often referred to as pelolais, or straight hair). Kicked out of her religious high school for "fornication," Daniela must face the wrath of her strict and devout mother who threatens to send her on an evangelical mission to Paraguay unless she agrees to stay away from boys and spend her summer interning at the evangelical TV channel. At the station, Daniela strikes a relationship with the pious Tomás while fantasizing about her older colleague Antonia. Daniela compiles her thoughts, fears and desires into a "fotolog," a visual blog, followed by hundreds of young people who react, advise and comfort her.

Joven y Alocada (2012)
Joven y Alocada (2012)

The movie is based on a true story, that of Camilla Gutierrez, one of the film’s screenplay writers, who became a sort of local celebrity in the past few years as readers followed on her blog (now a Facebook page) details of her sexual explorations and tense relations with her family. Directed by Marialy Rivas, a film graduate whose first short film Blokes follows a young man’s homosexual drives in the violent political context of the dictatorship, Joven y Alocada was initially noticed abroad as it won a prize for Best Screenplay at Sundance Film Festival 2012. Released in Chile in the autumn of that year, it started out discreetly, hitting the capital’s more independent film houses such as Centro Cultural Alameda or Ciné Normandie but within a few weeks, the movie gained momentum and moved to more commercial venues. The success of such an iconoclast movie in Chile may come at first as a surprise; however, it seems to have struck a chord among the population.

Joven y Alocada (2012)
Joven y Alocada (2012)

A particularity of the film’s success lies in its ability to address different generations and social strata. Indeed, while Daniela belongs to a social elite that represents only a fraction of Chile’s population, her frustration at the control exercised over her and her sexuality by her family, school and general social norms is a feeling shared by young Chileans from lower classes as well. A few years ago, Santiago’s more conservative fringes woke up in shock when groups of teenagers nicknamed Los Pokemones started hanging out, partying and making out together by the riverbanks of the Mapocho. The teens were eventually kicked out, but this phenomenon illustrates quite well the growing discrepancies between an aging conservative and religious elite and the aspirations of an experience-starved younger generation whose sexual awakening is facilitated by the spread of online platforms and social media. Joven y Alocada is also innovative in addressing the values of Evangelism, a creed that has been increasing rapidly in the country.

As a foreigner, watching Joven y Alocada without subtitles represents a real linguistic challenge and requires a certain mastery of Chilean teenage slang. However, that is a fair price to pay to gain insight into some of the sub-movements shaking the country’s youth. At a time when students make their voices heard over issues as wide as education, political and economical issues, Joven y Alocada offers an unprecedented glimpse into this generation’s more intimate fears and aspirations.

Joven y Alocada (2012)
90 minutes
Showing at Hoyts La Reina, Cine Normandie, Cine Huerfanos, Centro Arte Alameda

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