Santiago de Chile based producer Cangrejo Films is screening director Pelayo Lira’s debut feature “Kingdoms,” at Karlovy Vary this week in its Another View section.
The film was co-written by Lira and Romina Reyes, the author of the novel of the same name, on which the film is based. Santiago-based Niebla Productions co-produced with additional support for the film came from the University of Chile, BancoEstado – Chile’s public bank, and Corfo – a Chilean government organization whose aim is to promote economic growth in Chile.
The film focuses on two characters; Sofia is a grad student near to receiving her PhD in a field in which she has little desire to work; Alejandro is a freshman from an upper-middle-class family who can’t be bothered to go to class or study for any exams. With little celebration or circumstance the two fall into a intensely physical relationship. Each wants something from the relationship and the majority of the film is dedicated to the discovery process that what they really need is the same, just for different reasons.
Although the film focuses intimately on the two main characters, when others do get involved they tend to be subtle representations of a distinct group of today’s Chilean youth. Most have no long term plans, little or no money, and few ambitions. Most are prideful, hard workers that just don’t value the same things that their parents did.
The film had its world premier in international competition at Buenos Aires’ Bafici and will have its domestic premiere in August at the Sanfic Festival in Santiago, Chile.
Producer Diego Ignacio Pino Anguita and director Pelayo Lira discussed the film and the atmosphere in which it was created with Variety.
This film has a lot of sex in it, but the sex scenes seem to be saying things about the emotional and even socio-economic needs of the couple. Why use sex to express these characters’ needs?
Lira: My main intention was to home in on the effect Alejandro and Sofia have on each other and their sexual bond while examining their possession of each other, that between two characters who connect because they have nothing. That has to do with how I see being a middle class student in Chile today; having no money, no job and no clear future. The emotional and material emptiness they feel is transferred to their relationship. It’s why the sex scenes reflect their desire for ownership .
The film is very intimate, can you discuss some ways you fostered that feeling of intimacy?
Lira: I always considered the film a portrait. It was like putting a camera in the life of an average student, that’s why the characters are fairly common, so we can all identify. The idea was to follow the character in the most intimate way possible, always with the camera close and with a editing rhythm that allowed us to follow him in a “hypnotic” way. We were also very focused on faces in the film. Their emotions, their eyes, what their faces and bodies could express. That puts us somehow deeper into the relationship of the couple.
What is Sofia looking for from Alejandro? Is he a status symbol coming from a wealthy family? Someone younger whom she can control? Or is it just about the sex?
Lira: For me, what Sofia is looking for in sex is basically pleasure, and although it sounds cliché , she only finds that pleasure through feeling violated, through pain, the blows, she needs the marks to feel pleasure. Because she is a character that doesn’t feel much, lost in the lack of possibilities for the future, she needs something that moves her, and that something is the pain in their sex. Throughout the story however, she realizes that she needs more than just the carnal or physical pleasures. She needs someone to take care of her in some ways because she is alone.
Many side characters express a feeling of hopelessness towards their futures. Are these just characteristics of these people or a larger statement about the youth of Chile?
Lira: I would dare to say that it’s a generational theme of young people in Chile, especially my generation which was born in the ’80s and ‘90s. In a sociopolitical context, it was when the transition from dictatorship to democracy began in Chile. The whole of society changed, so many possibilities opened up. I think we are a generation that was born into pressure from our parents who told us to work hard, be somebody, and to do that you have to study and go to University. This causes a lot of young people to go and feel discontented. This was the message I tried to get across with the other characters.
Chile is experiencing a remarkable boom in filmmaking, driven over the last decade by a new generation of filmmakers hitting the scene. Can you talk a bit about the identity of this new generation?
Anguita: 10-15 years ago it was more difficult in Chile to make a film because there wasn’t much funding or space to do it. The filmmakers then were brave and hardworking and they opened the way for us to make films now. The current generation, we share a vision. We try to make the world understand how Chileans live, what’s the reality in our country. Over the last 10 years in Chile, we are more open, more free. The ‘90s were difficult because we were a country in transition and people lived with fear, but now they don’t have to be afraid. Now there is a new generation that doesn’t have to live the catholic way, the conservative way. This generation lives the way they want, which can be confusing. That’s the game today, we are more free, but also more confused.
What’s next for the film?
Anguita: We will have the Chilean premiere in August at Sanfic and then the commercial bow in March. That is when the Universities start their academic year and we want to coincide with that.