'La Nana' Cleans House at Sundance

Chile has been enthusiastically discovering and embracing its new cinematic talent in recent years. And, when Sebastian Silva’s new comedic drama La Nana ("The Maid") won international recognition this month at the prestigious 2009 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Chileans once again celebrated.

Santiago Chile Sundance La Nana
Photo courtesy Sundance

The 95-minute film, which received the World Cinema Jury Prize For Drama and a World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting, portrays a vengeful live-in maid named Raquel, played by Catalina Saavedra.

"I totally agree with the jury. She gave an astonishing performance," Silva said at Sundance when he accepted the acting award for Saavedra.

Santiago Chile Sundance La Nanaa
Photo courtesy Sundance

La Nana competed with over 9,000 submissions for the 200 film picks at Sundance. The movie debuted at the festival and will not hit Chilean theaters until mid-2009.

Many movies throughout most of the '90s were popular in Chile but did not have the financial support to promote the movies overseas. It wasn't until the late '90s when Chile got a taste of international praise.

According to the country’s Arts and Audiovisual Industry Council, Chile is producing more than 12 feature films a year-- a renaissance of sorts following the country’s 17-year dictatorship (1973 to 1990), which restricted artistic expression and ceased most movie productions. Over the last two decades the country has awakened from what seemed like a 20-year cinematic coma.

For the past 15 years, the Valdivia Film Festival in Chile’s Region XIV has showcased both old and new national films including long-lost films like Alvaro Covacevich’s 1967 movie Morir un Poco ("To Die a Little"), of the many films made prior to 1973 that were destroyed during Pinochet’s military regime. The film was found in the archives of a German film festival in 2005 by the director.

Chilean films cost anywhere from US$300,000 to the country’s most expensive film budget to date--El Brindis ("The Toast")--which cost US$3 million. In the last three years the film industry has received US$10 million in government grants.

International awards assure filmmakers that the industry’s success signifies more than a visual art renaissance; it represents the country’s positive journey toward change.

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