Mapa Para Conversar: Chilean Cinema Talking Loud

The distinct split that is an intrinsic aspect of Chilean society forms the basis of Mapa Para Conversar (Map for a talk), a new film from director Constanza Fernández, which revolves around the lives of three Santiago women and the inter-relation bonds which envelop them. The main part of the film takes place in one seemingly pleasant afternoon spent sailing off the coast of Algarrobo, yet the script manages to deal with themes of class, sexuality, political persuasion, and the truly thorny issue of parental pressure. Winner of the Best Chilean Director prize at the Santiago International Film Festival (SANFIC) 2011, Mapa Para Conversar is the first feature film from Fernández and follows on from her award-winning documentary Levaggi.

Roberta and Javiera (photo courtesy of Mapa Para Conversar)
Roberta and Javiera (photo courtesy of Mapa Para Conversar)

The film begins with thirty year old Roberta running through the Barrio Brasil in her underwear while carrying a dismantled bedframe and its covers. This sets the tone for the quirky tale that follows, as the three markedly different female protagonists come together under the premise of a day out. Unfortunately, a simple excursion arouses repressed self-doubt and embedded insecurities, and what should be an enjoyable jaunt in a boat becomes a gruelling emotional slog for all involved.

Roberta lives with her young son and her girlfriend Javiera, the sexually-charged and free-spirited daughter of a ‘disappeared’ political prisoner, who makes a living in porn movies and erotic art websites. Having been friends since their schooldays, they are now living together, and the time arrives for Roberta to break the news of her homosexuality to her mother Ana, a woman whose values are shrouded in traditional conservative ideals. At first Ana dismisses Roberta’s words as a mere fad, but upon apparently realising that her daughter is actually now a fully-grown woman, she agrees to accompany Roberta and Javiera on a sailing trip. All three approach the event with enthusiasm and hope, but with no small degree of apprehension.

Javiera and Ana (photo courtesy of Mapa Para Conversar)
Javiera and Ana (photo courtesy of Mapa Para Conversar)

Despite a couple of awkward cross-generational moments, things start off pretty smoothly before the inevitable tension builds. The apparently random aquatic environment provides a crucial setting in which the events unfold. The sea initially serves as a pleasant backdrop before becoming a prison that leaves the women trapped amid the claustrophobic confines of the boat. As the day progresses, the sea gets choppier and the bottle of pisco sour is drained, the strain manifests itself in a series of conflicts and misunderstandings.

The film thrives on three very balanced performances and the complexities of the entwining bonds that unite them. Andrea Moro puts in a fine performance as the exasperated Roberta, while the buzzy and morally ambiguous character of Javiera, played by debut actress Francisa Bernardi, laces charm and empathy over an underlying melancholy. The role of Ana, the outsider of the three in terms of age and outlook, is played with warmth by Mariana Prat and invites sympathy in spite of her apparent prejudices and flaws as a parent.

The parallels between the women can be interpreted as a metaphor for the divides that are a feature of Chilean society, as the unifying role of Roberta serves as a conduit through which the more complex characters of Javiera and Ana can evolve. These contrasts represent those of a culture in which modern values and choices are at odds with an enduring conservatism rooted in conventional doctrine. There is little outright hostility but the constant proximity of these two polarities makes for an uneasy association. This well-directed film gives the basic premise of ‘girlfriend meets mother’ a sense of intrigue in its development.

Mapa Para Conversar doesn’t attempt to draw any conclusions or to lecture its audience. It is content with providing a window into the social clashes that are a recognisable theme of modern society. Rather than attempt to explain these conflicts, it goes for the refreshing approach of merely showing things as they are. This is an involving yet simple story and, alongside other recent films such as Joven y Alocada and the documentary Hija, it is the latest in the wave of female-centred and directed films that have marked Chilean cinema this last year or so.

Mapa Para Conversar (Map For A Talk)
Directed by Constanza Fernández
Chile, 2011
83 Minutes
On general release from 14th June (inc. Cine Arte Alameda and BF Huerfanos)

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