A change of register and setting for Fernandez Almendras after 2009 family saga “Huacho” and 2011’s countryside-set drama “By the Fire,” well received at Cannes and San Sebastian respectively, vengeance parable “To Kill” was selected for Cannes’ Cinefondation-Atelier.
It turns on a father who, attacked by a small-time mobster and feeling the legal system has failed him, decides to take justice into his own hands.
Produced by Josefina Undurraga and Gregorio Gonzalez at Chile’s Forastero whose “The Maid” snagged a 2010 Golden Globe nomination, identity thriller “R. Lorena” has a young woman suddenly hounded by collection agencies, which confuse her with someone else – the R. Lorena of the title.
In all, seven Chilean movies in post-prod will be screened at Locarno’s Carte Blanche. Films’ directors and producer will pitch them to an audience of sales agents, foreign distributors, buyers and fest-heads attending Locarno’s Industry Days, which run Aug. 10-12.
The Carte Blanche selection underscores the rise of genre and thrillers in Chile, as over much of Latin America.
“Chilean cinema is growing not only in the quantity of films but diversity of film types,” said CinemaChile exec director Constanza Arena.
Two further titles instance the vitality of Chile’s modern documentary tradition: Edison Casas’ ironically-titled “The Waltz” follows a student and tennis coach and former Pinochet torture victim as the two join Chile’s 2011 protests for a free quality public education system; “Surire,” from Bettina Perut and Ivan Osnovikoff, records the battle between the local indigenous community, a mining and geothermal companies and the state to exploit or conserve Chile’s Sourire salt flats, extending 14,000 feet up in the Andes.
Carlos Araya Diaz’s “The Prodigal Son” pictures an overworked doctor at a public hospital who begins collecting rubbish when his younger son flees the home; “Raul,” from Matias Venables Brito, turns on a middle-aged man who has a job – he’s a hairdresser – but no life to speak off; “Volantin Cortao,” from Diego Ayala and Anibal Jofre, traces the difficult relationship between a juvenile detention center monitor and a 16-year-old inmate.
“In the last two-to-three years, in film terms in Latin America, Chile is the country that has emerged most strongly,” saidNadia Dresti, the Locarno Festival’s head of international.
She added: Chilean films “story telling is very clear. Issues may be deep, but the treatment isn’t heavy. They may be political, like “No,” where politics is, however, treated a different way; in other films, which might be about every day life, such as ‘Gloria,’ audiences become deeply attached to the central character.”
Why Chile has emerged so strongly is another matter.
The surge has been driven by a remarkable generation of directors who exploded on the scene at the 2005 Valdivia Festival, which screened Matias Bize’s “En la cama,” “The Sacred Family,” from “Gloria” director Sebastian Lelio, Alicia Scherson’s “Play” and novelist-turned-director Alberto Fuguet’s “For Rent.”
This generation inherited the free wheeling creative passions and international ambitions of the ‘60s New Chilean Cinema, Ascanio Cavallo and Gonzalo Mata argue in “El novisimo cine chileno.”
Chilean cinema has benefitted from near two-decades of state subsidy support. A clutch of producers, many at Locarno this year, hand-in-hand with promo org CinemaChile, have ensured that the best Chilean films garner sales agents, international co-production, plus a festival presence.
Arguably more substantial and certainly pushed increasingly at home by their producers, the number of Chilean films garnering multi-screen exhibition in Chile rose from 7 in 2003 to 23 in 2011, per Arena.
Chilean films also have something to say, and not about a country lost in the pits of third-world poverty traps.
Chile has moved on. Locarno’s seven Carte Blanche titles, all turn, some more frontally, on the failures of a liberal economy and its social collateral, factors forging today’s developed world: Little communities crushed by big business (“Surire”); How society attacks (“R. Lorena”), alienates (“Raul”), warps (“The Prodigal Son”), writes off (“Volantin Cortao”) and fails to defend (“To Kill”) or educate (“Waltz”) individuals.
“The films treat first-world problems but have a lot of local and South American elements. That double-identity make Chilean films comprehensible over the world without their abandoning its Chilean identity,” Arena said.
Comprised of the Tribeca Festival’s artistic director Federic Boyer, Rotterdam Festival programmer Gerwin Tasma and Uruguayan producer Agustina Chiarano (“So Much Water”), a jury will award $10,700 in completion finance to the best film.