No Bread: The Neighbourhood is Changing

"In other parts of the world the style of life is different," says Iván Nakouzi, producer of the now internationally acclaimed short No Hay Pan (No Bread). "The bread is sold in supermarkets, panaderías don’t exist."

Even while elaborating on the universally-felt phenomenon of corporate domination, No Hay Pan has an indisputably Chilean grit to it. Set in the unassuming dwellings of western Santiago, it tells the story of a humble bread shop owner’s struggle to stay afloat after a supermarket opens down the street. Although the film is now the winner of eight Chilean cinematic accolades and has been shown in film festivals around the world, its road to recognition was riddled by doubt.

Photo by Mauricio Palacios
Photo by Mauricio Palacios

It’s sundown in the lively Plaza Yungay as Nakouzi, director Macarena Monrós and I exchange pleasantries before ducking into a warmly lit bar to discuss their new film. We choose a table in the back, tucked away from the wine-fueled banter of the bar’s well-dressed bohemian occupants. Nakouzi and Monrós are soft-spoken and articulate as they recall their painstaking process towards success.

"Initially, it was a struggle to convince people that it was a good idea," says Monrós. Surprisingly, the film’s pertinent discourse on the demise of small businesses did not spark the interest of their colleagues. "The people here [in Chile] would ask, 'Yeah, but why bread?'" says Nakouzi. "The decision to proceed with the theme was regarded as rebellious by our professors."

Photo by Mauricio Palacios
Photo by Mauricio Palacios

They admit that beyond the borders of Chile was where they found the majority of their support. "It was actually easier to talk about the idea with foreigners because they understood that in losing something as fundamental as the neighbourhood corner stores a vital elemental of our society was being lost," says Nakouzi.

While Chileans were less inclined to empathize with the film, Monrós and Nakouzi believe its message is a very relevant theme in Chile right now. "We had a chance to go to Holland for a film festival and the people we talked to told us this had happened there as well, except 20 or 30 years ago," says Monrós.

The inspiration for the film was drawn from observations in Monrós' own life. She recalls working in a local supermarket prior to making the film and seeing local shops in the area go out of business two months after the supermarket opened its doors. "It called my attention because of how it transformed the neighborhood and left the people out of work," she says.

Photo by Mauricio Palacios
Photo by Mauricio Palacios

The film's rather melancholy demeanor speaks to the difficulty societal change can have on the individual. "It talks about the social and economic transformation of life here," says Nakouzi.

Esthetically, the film relies on scenes of humility. Santiago’s working-class neighborhoods of Quinta Normal and Barrio Yungay provide the backdrop as the characters themselves are played by actual Santiagüinos. The scenes depict how the common, everyday interactions of these characters are being adversely affected by the new supermarket.

There is a sense of resignation that wends its way through the film and indirectly addresses the seemingly hopeless battle we are all caught in against big business. However, the recent success of this small budget production is a testiment to the tenacity of the underdog and stands as an encouraging example of the fruits of perseverance.

"It takes a lot to make the decision to study film in Chile," admits Monrós. "It’s not something you can become formally successful from." And although they are far from living prosperously, they seem to have found what makes them whole.

No Hay Pan will be showing April 4th at 20:30 at the Auditorio Municipal de LO ESPEJO, Av.Central 8321 in Santiago.
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