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10 Chilean Directors to Watch

Chile’s fount of inspiring and often counter-conservative establishment filmmakers shows no signs of drying

Over the last decade, few countries in international have yielded so many top festival winners as Chile. Some – think Pablo Larraín, Sebastián Lelio – are now crossing over into English-language filmmaking. But Chile’s groundswell of new talent, now dating back a decade, shows no sign of ceasing. Here are 10 Chilean directors to track, some of whom presented news projects at the 2017 SANFIC-Santiago Intl. Film Festival, which wrapped Aug. 27:


You could see it coming. Few recent Latin American fiction shorts have had a larger impact on the North American festival circuit than Francisca Alegría’s Forastero/Jirafa-produced “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye” which won three honors at the 2016 Columbia U. Film Festival, played Telluride, Toronto and the New York festival before winning best short at 2017’s Sundance. Alegría’s is now building on the short for a first feature, “The Cow That Sang Its Song About the Future.” That again is little surprise. Few directors suggest in a short such an immediately immersive and personal fiction world whose supernatural elements still appeal to core human emotions. Alegría’s talents extend beyond magic realism. Of other shorts, “Of Her I Sing,” set to a voice over of Paul Lobo Portuges’ poem, suggest, memorably, the epic impact on one man of his wife and life partner, now in her settled seventies. “Francisca’s poetic, symbolic vision of the world resembles that of past masters like Buñuel and Ruiz, distinguishes her language as a filmmaker,” says Jirafa producer Augusto Matte.


When not focusing on opening a cheese factory, Tomás Alzamora spends his time making films and DJ’ing in Santiago de Chile. His first feature, a fake-news, dark comedy titled “Little White Lie,” premiered at the Miami Film Festival in March. Alzamora currently has two features in the works. “One will be shot in a pizza place in the U.S. and the other on Haiti’s smallest island,” he told Variety just before the premiere of “Little White Lie.” The director described his style as “always along the same line: Black comedy, I love this genre.” Alzamora’s features are produced by Santiago-based company Equeco, with the help of his long-time friend and producer Pablo Calisto. “Little White Lie,” was recently picked up by Sony Pictures Television for Latin American distribution.


Anguita’s short “The Simple Things,” won the director a Grand Prize at the 2016 Clermont-Ferrand Intl. Short Film Festival, one of the most prestigious short film fests in the world. In the film, Penelope, who lives with her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s, convinces a homeless man with no memories that he is her father. For his first feature, Anguita is working on another family drama, entitled “Broken Glasses.” The film will take place after the matriarch of a large family passes away, and her survivors assemble to divide her estate. Secrets begin to emerge, as long-untold family stories resurface. “Broken Glasses” is currently looking for European co-production.


Few projects presented at SANFIC’s Santiago Lab this year are more ambitious and questioning than its Chilean Cinema Winner, Felipe Galvez’ “Los Colonos” (“The Settlers”), a “revisionist Western,” as Galvez puts it, detailing in b/w the mid 1890s genocide of Chile’s Selk’nams (while questioning the epic-heroic machismo of their killers), and, in a second part, in glorious “The Leopard”-style color, set at a banquet in Punto Arenas in 1913 attended by politicians and land-owners, the construction of an official version of how Chile’s West – here deep South – was won. History, Galvez sustains, is a mix of massacres and lies. Advised at screenplay by Argentina’s Mariano Llinás, thoroughly researched and thought-through – even hallucinatory at times, if character drawings are anything to go by –  set up at Giancarlo Nasi’s Quijote-Rampante Films, a project winner at Valdivia and Mar del Plata and a title which screams for international co-production.


Awarded at SANFIC’s 2017 Santiago Lab a slot at Tribeca, Hyland’s debut feature in development, “Those Girls,” centers on her favorite theme, female friendship, but also deals with the thorny issue of abortion where a landmark bill has just passed in Chile to ease up on the ban. The Santiago Lab entry turns on two best friends, one pregnant, and their clumsy efforts to raise funding for an illegal abortion. After stints at Trebol Film and Demente Contenido as a writer and executive producer, Hyland formed her company Busca Bulla. She cites Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” HBO’s “Girls” and iPhone-shot “Tangerine” as references. “‘Girls’ excited me as it portrayed us in a more natural and realistic light,” said Hyland, 27, who labels herself a ‘granny millennial.’ “Those Girls” will also showcase Santiago, which she loves to explore: its architecture, idiosyncrasies and little-known places. Her penchant for naturalness in lighting extends to music, which will only be diegetic.


Ignacio Juricic’s 2015 short film, “Lost Queens,” won both a Queer Palm for short films and was named runner-up for the Cinefondation Award at the 2015 Cannes Festival. “Lost Queens” followed 18-year-old Rodrigo, who worked as a drag queen in a night club which was raided in a televised sting. At the time, Juricic was a student at the film and TV faculty of the Universidad de Chile, but it was clear that the next step would be a first feature for the writer-director. Murder-mystery “Enigma” will be Juricic’s debut full-length feature. In the film, Nancy, a hairdresser, goes on an unsolved-crime TV show in hopes of learning more about the night, 10 years prior, that her daughter was murdered in the streets for being a lesbian. “Enigma” will begin filming in November.


Pamela Pollak has more than 25 years experience in both film and TV, and has received nominations for both the Pedro Sienna Award in Chile, and Goya Awards in Spain. Since branching out on her own, Pollak has shot two short films: “Nunca Estrenada”, nominated at the Diva Festival and Festival de Cine Las Condes and “Same Same But Different.” “Edita, a Chilean Czech,” Pollak’s first feature, participated in the Santiago Lab at this year’s SANFIC Santiago International Film Festival. The 70-minute documentary covers the life of Pollak’s great-aunt Edita, a Czech-Jewish woman who was forced to flee the Holocaust. After working to break up Nazi organizations in southern Chile, the newly formed Stalinist government declared her insane and placed her child in an orphanage.


Although he’s studied film direction in two Universities, Sepulveda credits his 10 years as a magician for teaching him how to structure a script, and capture the attention of the spectator. “It taught me the value of the spectacle,” he said.  His first film was “Illiterate” (“Las Analfabetas”), starring Paulina Garcia (“Gloria”), which had its world premiere in Venice before winning multiple prizes at other festivals. “No Need to Apologize,” now in post, was borne from 10 months of improv rehearsals. While he co-wrote it with Michel Gajardo, he also credits three of his leads as co-authors of his film about three individuals in crisis whose lives intersect. He’s now co-writing his third pic, a still-untitled corporate drama based on true events, with Alicia Scherson. Garcia plays an unscrupulous manager at a giant retail company.


Director of “The Monster Within,” one of a clutch of genre movie projects at SANFIC’s Santiago Lab project forum this year, Rodrigo Susarte is an all-rounder who has been pushing the envelope on various fronts for a decade. He co-directed 2009’s “Gen Mishima,” one – if not the – first sci-fi TV series in Latin America, which won a script commitment from NBC; a theater show which took spectators to a clearing, not a roundhouse; and now “The Monster Within,” which tracks a cop who investigates in Chile’s deep south a case of a local warlock manslaughter. Set up at Forastero, “The Monster Within” promises to be both a “psychotic, psychedelic” mind-trip, in Susarte’s words, set against the background of younger Chilean’s growing affinity for the Mapuche world-vision, and a noirish reflection on the violence and monstrosity of modern man.


Aside from having made two features about the – until late – rarely-explored inner lives of Chilean transgender individuals, Nicolas Videla, 28, is a drag queen performer known as “Lethal Amnesia.” To finance his multi-prize winning faux documentaries “Naomi Campbell” and “The Devil’s Magnificent,” he staged fund-raising parties at a monthly drag event in Santiago called “Drogadas y Dragueadas” (“Drugged and Dragged”). “I’m hoping to tap more traditional sources next time but there’s a great resistance towards gay and trans issues,” he said, noting that gay marriage remains taboo in Chile. “The Devil’s Magnificent,” shot in Paris guerrilla style, was released by Storyboard Media on alternative circuits in June where it screened far longer than the norm. Videla’s next project, “Kanekalón,” follows his fellow drag performers as they go about their fictional lives. Working on a shoestring budget has compelled him to do his own writing, editing, art direction and even some photography – undoubtedly, one way to hone one’s craft.

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