Chilean B.O. loves ‘Sentimental’ fare

Nation's auds are drawn to formerly taboo subjects

SANTIAGO — For the second year running, a Chilean film set new attendance for a locally produced pic. Nearly 1 million Chileans went to see this year’s draw, “Chacotero Sentimental.”

The hit, directed by Christian Galaz, showed that Chilean audiences are drawn to formerly taboo subjects such as domestic violence and sexual abuse.

“This is the Chilean ‘Titanic,'” says Pedro Jux, president of the local board of the Motion Picture Assn. “This stimulates the appetite for other players to come into this market. The film had no expectations — it came out of the blue.”

Despite the first recession in more than a decade and high penetration of cable and satellite TV, film attendance remained stable at 9.7 million during 2000.

But signs of an upsurge in Chilean film production abound. Newly minted magazine the End has gathered together top directors and film critics to provide a monthly survey and analysis of homegrown film. Fifty thousand copies of the magazine are distributed monthly to university students and filmgoers.

“We are supporting independent productions, explaining different genres and opening up the world of moviemaking to the public,” says Fernando Veliz, the mag’s editor.

Such a climate helped several teen-themed pics that portray contemporary realities, including “LSD,” “Florofilia” and “Historias de Sexo,” find release late last year.

According to Carlos Flores, director of the Chilean Film School, “For the first time in quite a while the generation of 18- to 25-year-olds has access to an art form that can be shown at theaters on a massive scale. I think that now the youth are being incorporated as they produce films about their own reality.”

Hoyts Cinemas has been widely praised for actively supporting local films. Phillip Hordern, executive director of Hoyts, has organized film festivals that take advantage of the Hoyts 16-screen salles in Santiago.

While a dozen screens might be running the Hollywood fare of the month, Hordern has consistently filled four other screens with art films including alternative Chilean and archival films, and screenings of upcoming local movies.

However, army officers still sit on the censorship board. The Chilean Constitution promises censorship, and the courts deliver it. Political analysts doubt that the new socialist government of Ricardo Lagos can overcome in the short term the arch-conservative interests that continue to have considerable influence.

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