Hidden in the rainy forests of Chile’s south lies Valdivia, a coastal city small enough to have a relaxed, friendly feel but big enough to sport a vibrant artistic community. Valdivia’s prestigious International Film Festival, for example, attracts enthusiasts from all over Chile every year in October with its smorgasbord of national and international cinema.
Dowtown Valdivia, photo courtesy Chile Arereo
The festival offers an intimidatingly diverse selection of feature length films, shorts, and other goodies. This year, twelve different films competed for the best international feature and six different films for the best Chilean feature.
Festival closing ceremony, photo courtesy FIC de Valdivia
Other categories included short films from Chilean film schools, New Pathways, dedicated to avant-garde cinema, and retrospective looks at Chilean film masters and independent film classics. The festival also welcomed esteemed contemporary director Vimukthi Jayasundara from Sri Lanka.
“Musica Campesina,” directed by Alberto Fuguet, won the best Chilean feature competition. In a heartwarming tale about the beauty and difficulties of living abroad, Tazo, a Chilean musician, finds himself trying to make ends meet in Nashville, Tennessee. He befriends a number of locals and has the kind of spontaneous experiences only an unattached, traveling soul could have. He sips expensive beer with a friend while watching the sun come up, learns about American breakfast in a local diner, and presents his soul-barring version of a Chilean folk song in a bar at the end of the movie.
The best international feature was claimed by “Nana,” a film by Valerie Massadian from France. Another international entry, “El Estudiante” by Santiago Mitre from Argentina, tells the riveting, action-packed story of a university student turned grass-roots politician in Buenos Aires who learns through experience and betrayal.
“Play,” by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, examines the dynamics of bullying among young boys based on real cases. Beneath the languid, ever-gray skies of Goteburg, Sweden, the film has a laid-back, almost playful feel. The movie often elicits smiles and chuckles, but also touches briefly on the heavy topic of racism against immigrants.
photo courtesy Mejor no Fumes by Daniel Peralta
A Chilean film not part of the competition, “Mejor No Fumes” by Daniel Peralta, is the simple story of young lonely guy in Valparaiso. While the content is not particularly original, the movie captures the beauty and essence of the port city perfectly, with its panoramic views, winding streets, and bohemian atmosphere.
Those more interested in experimental material could check out shorts by American director Jay Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt uses home movies and found footage to create montages that explore intimate human experiences and 20th century history. One film portrays the grief of a family that loses a son with silent black and white clips and a narrative written on slides.
The quality of films and depth of material make the festival Chile’s most renowned, but the setting is what makes it uniquely special. Thanks to frequent rain, Valdivia is always lush and green and the riverfront is never far away.
The various theaters and venues used for the festival are scattered around downtown and nearby Isla Teja. Movie-goers can be seen chatting in the grassy plaza, crossing the bridge over the river and sea lions sunbathing below, and passing through the riverside market, where locals sell fresh seafood, produce, and handcrafts.
On Saturday evening, a film was projected outside in a small park next to the river. The festival’s main information and meeting tent is also located next to river and offers picnic tables, bean bag chairs, and local beer.
Festival Internacional de Cine de Valdivia
11 – 16 October 2011