MADRID — Isolation: Chile’s distance, the walls of the Andes, make it one of the topoi of its culture. It also threads multiple Sanfic shorts this year, as lead characters – the housekeeper- wife in “The Lighthouse Builder,” the lonely janitor of “Swimmer,” the father in “Descansar,” the Colombian immigrant in “Gala,” the ex anti-Pinochet guerrillero of “” – live out varying forms of withering solitude. Another more strident theme: Sexual abuse by men in power, whether a movie maker (“Danger & Alone”), a cult leader (“The Summer of the Electric Lion”), a priest (“Deliver Us From Evil”) or a father (“Más allá de la duda”). The shorts boast performances by some of the greatest actors working in Chile today: Francisca Gavilán (“Violeta”), Alejandro Goic (“The Club”) to cite just two. Sometimes made by established talent – animator Tomás Welss, with “Magic Dream” – they also flag potential major new talent to come. Here’s a 10 title cut from a 22 Chilean short selection, plus one inevitable recommendation out of competition. Enjoy.
‘CERCA DEL RIO’
Rocío is a single mother who lives in voluntary isolation with her two children, Isadora and Felipe, in Constitución, a town heavily affected by the 2017 fires in southern Chile. Paranoid that other people are out to harm her children, she relegates her kids to their home and environs. With disastrous consequences. The relationship between mother and children is precisely laid out by director Andrea Castillo to allow the audience investment, repulsion, outrage and eventually sympathy.
‘DANGER AND ALONE’
In this black and white follow-up to an all-too-common film industry horror story, Mary Monahan, one of the 394 who have denounced James Toback for sexual abuse, recounts her personal story while repeating the phrase “I complied,” in response to those ignorant enough to make excuses for the very powerful who take advantage of those beneath their station. Voices, in a number of other languages, join their less publicized stories to hers, revealing the true dimension of the crisis. And it’s reach far beyond the mainstream world of film and TV.
‘THE LIGHTHOUSE BUILDER’
Shot in widescreen, directed by Ramiro Zamorano, seen at Spain’s Huesca Festival, and one of the strongest intimist dramas in the section, “The Lighthouse Keeper” captures the cliffs, buffeting wind, immense gray skies of Chile’s rugged fjord-strewn Deep South. But it is the emotional inhospitality of its inhabitants which really registers. A young lad, Esteban, joins a crew at the southernmost lighthouse in Chile, is smitten by the lighthouse keeper Vladimiro’s wife, Ana (Gavilán), and falling ill, accompanies her on her daily round, striking up an innocent intimacy. But, as he leaves, it is the final reaction shot of Ana, as she imagines a life of absolute solitude ahead, which really impacts.
‘EL MAR SE MUEVE EN UNA ESPIRAL’
Jittery B&w shots of a choppy sea yield to stills of a fishing village on Chile’s seaboard where scenes repeat movements, often of manual labor, or just one gesture, such as a dog turning its head. Meanwhile characters talk about their past jobs, or how the young have no future. Experimental in form, and a poetic portrait of the monotony and lack of opportunity in an impoverished world. From Jeremy Hatcher whose more conventional short, “Apnea,” played multiple festivals.
‘THE SUMMER OF THE ELECTRIC LION’
Diego Cespedes’ “The Summer of the Electric Lion” depicts the childish games of 11.year-old Alonso and his sister Daniela, a young 17, pulling faces, fighting, telling each other superstitious tales – things kids do. But Daniela is on her way to become the seventh wife of the Electric Lion, an aging religious cult leader. The film develops into a vision of parental-consented rape, seen from the inarticulate point-of-view of the victims. “I don’t want to have babies with the Lion,” Daniela says. Not that anyone but Alonso listens to her. Winner of the First Prize at this year’s 21st Cannes Festival Cinéfondation Selection, a film school short competition, beating out 2,400 entries from around the world.
Gala, a Colombian played by Libertad Patiño cleans offices in Chile, tries to persuade her mother to send her her young son. But her son’s happy in rural Colombia, granny says. Gala has two options: Return to backward Colombia, strike out on her own in Chile. She befriends another young mother. An immigrant’s tale, yes, but laced with feminist sorority attitude.
‘DELIVER US FROM EVIL’
Director Rivera Aburto trains his camera over famed Chilean thesp Alejandro Goic (“Gloria”), playing a priest who listens with far too much personal interest to a young man’s confession that he’s attracted to his young daughter’s friends. The young man’s words may be far from sincere, however. One of the shortest shorts in the section, and all the better for that, a punchy confessionary box two-hander and table-turner that never outstays its welcome.
‘MÁS ALLÁ DE LA DUDA’
Another title touching the still raw wounds of sexual abuse: A daughter returns home after 10 years to accuse her mother of knowing her now dead father abused her. Her mother is lost for words, confirming her guilt. As did her housemaid. A powerful indictment from Monserrat Pais.
In this adeptly-shot short, Claudia and Fernando visit their family farmhouse with his brother Raul in tow, who is excited about the upcoming arrival of Claudia’s friend for the weekend. To pass the time, the three go metal detecting in the surrounding woods. Their weekend is disturbed by faulty electricity at the house, and an unexpected arrival at the home. A snapshot of middle-class disavowal in the vein of Marcela Said’s “Summer of the Flying Fish.”
Produced by Lunes and the Larrain brothers’ Fabula, the most ambitious international production company in Chile, its first animated film, “Waldo’s Dream,” is a cynical, satirical look at the Walt Disney empire, and how it has evolved through time. The high-end animation mimics well the in-house Disney style that so many viewers are familiar with, and hints there may be more to come from a company previously associated with live-action arthouse cinema.
OUT OF COMPETITION
‘DESDE EL PRINCIPIO’
Penned by Nicolás Giacobone, Oscar winning co-writer of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman,” this short takes place in the darkness of a recording studio. Two voice-over actors, dubbing an English drama into Spanish, start the dialogue meant to go with the film before divulging into their own issues as a couple, and a tragedy which has affected them profoundly. Intense emotional performances by the two actors push the dialogue-driven story to its satisfying conclusion.
CHILEAN SHORT FILMS
“A Love Story,” (Lucas Quintana, Chile)
“Atacama,” (Diego Ruiz, Chile)
“Be Water,” (Franco Sellés, Chile)
“Cerca del Rio,” (Andrea Castillo, Chile)
“Danger and Alone,” (Nicole Costa, Mary Monahan, USA, Chile)
“Deliver Us From Evil,” (Eduardo Rivera Aburto, Chile)
“Descansar,” (Ignacio Ruiz, Chile)
“The Lighthouse Builder,” (Ramiro Zamorano, Chile)
“El mar se mueve en una espiral,” (Jeremy Hatcher, Chile)
“The Summer of the Electric Lion,”(Diego Cespedes, Chile)
“Ex recoleta,” (Javiera Lucero, Chile)
“Gala,” (Dante Valdes, Chile)
“Los Metales Diego Villaseca Lagos Chile
“Magic Dream,” (Tomas Welss, Chile)
“Más allá de la duda,” (Monserrat Pais, Chile)
“Nadadora,” (Luis Horta, Chile)
“Nadar de noche,” (Paulo Brunetti, Chile, Argentina)
“Si los muros hablaran,” (Peter McPhee, Chile)
“Solo la Muerte es Real,” (Colectivo Miope, Chile)
“Ver de Lejos,” (Patricio Blanche, Chile)
“Vivero,” (Marcela Gueny, Chile)
“Waldo’s Dream,” (Santiago O’Ryan, José Ignacio Navarro, Jorge Campusano, Chile)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Adolescencia,” (José Rodriguez, Puerto Rico, USA)
“Desde el Principio,” (Miguel J. Soliman, Costa Rica)