Cinema in Chile Charges Through Change

Courtesy of Film Factory

2019 Cannes and the second half of the year catch Chile in the throes of huge change and a fairly exemplary evolution. Already, new paradigms seem fairly clear.
Chilean cinema is “director-driven, about different conversations” with audiences, says Fabula producer Juan de Dios Larraín (“A Fantastic Woman,” “Gloria Bell”).

Marking perhaps the two biggest Chilean titles set to bow over the second half of the year, Pablo Larraín’s “Ema,” with Gael Garcia Bernal, is a dance-spangled melodrama, about new contemporary family dynamics. “Araña,” sold at Cannes by Film Factory Ent. and from Andrés Wood (“Machuca,” “Violeta”), begins to trace the roots of a new nationalism from Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship to the present.

That auteurist focus will remain, and, as the battle for success in an OTT world becomes a battle for talent, see Chile reach out to premium auteurs outside the country. One case in point: Argentine cineast Lucía Puenzo (“The German Doctor”), recruited by Fabula as showrunner on its debut international TV series “The Pack.”
The Berlinale’s European Film Market, Europe’s second-biggest industry gathering, has selected Chile as its Country in Focus for 2020.

No other big festival may be so appropriate for a big Chile showcase. “Chile has shown a remarkable rise in the past decade” and EFM presence has been “a dynamic one throughout the years,” says EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol, citing Pablo Larrain’s “El Club,” Patricio Guzman’s “The Pearl Button” and Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria” and “A Fantastic Woman,” all Berlin-prized titles and strong EFM sellers.

Berlin will most likely also confirm the evolution of industrial models. One, for companies and creators alike, is toward horizontal integration.
“The same director will shoot a commercial, then a TV episode, then a movie,” Larrain says. “For the commercial, he’ll be very well paid; for TV, paid OK; for the movie very badly paid. But everyone wants to do movies.”

The OTT makeover is also reforging Chile’s industrial identity. Chilean cineasts were traditionally filmmakers who, if their movies got great festival play, could break out to theatrical play abroad. Now they’re Spanish-language content makers from Chile able to access a 477 million Spanish-speaking market via Netflix, Amazon and other platforms.

“Thanks to the platforms, Latin American movies are finally being seen by Latin Americans,” says Florencia Larrea, at Forastero (“The Maid,” “Dry Martina”). “It’s an extraordinary paradigm change.”

“The country saw a highly conservative 17-year-old dictatorship,” says CinemaChile director Constanza Arena. “It’s only over the last eight or so years that it’s showing signs through its directors of a society that is opening up through, for example, the exploration of LGBT issues.”

Chilean cinema is fast diversifying in film type and media, most notably animation and genre, impelled by the passions of a younger generation of filmmakers and pulled by producers’ sense of a market, in theatrical and OTT platforms alike.

Fabula, for example, is producing its first animated feature, “Homeless,” with the makers of cult short “Waldo’s Dream.” Forastero has in pre-production “The Monster Within,” a “coming-of-age horror-thriller” set in the spectacular forests of Chile’s south, as a police captain, his daughter in tow, is dispatched there to invest an alleged coven of warlocks.

The context is radically singular, but the genre and characters universal, exploring a resonant father-daughter generational gulf, says Larrea.
At Cannes Atelier, Felipe Galvez’s “The Settlers,” lead-produced by Giancarlo Nasi’s Don Quijote Films, is a savage period Western, detailing how Chile’s South was won — through genocide, passed off as nationalist heroism.

Don Quijote also has in post Maria Paz Gonzalez’s “Lina de Lima,” a woman-finding-herself musical drama, produced by Nasi and Maite Alberdi.

Genre blending, in movies or individual sequences, is another consequence of the global platform revolution, Nasi says.

“We have to give space to different genres but such is our access to different cinema that they end up sometimes mixing totally,” he adds.

From Berlin’s screening Pablo Larraín’s “Tony Manero” as a work in progress back in 2008, no other festival has programmed more Chilean milestones.

Dieter Kosslick and his team, and Beki Probst and Matthijs Knol very early on recognized that Chilean cinema couldn’t be passed over,” Arena says. “Their forward vision gave crucial momentum to all that Chilean cinema’s lived and is living, its undoubted success.” She calls the Country in Focus designation “particularly significant” as the Berlinale turns 70 under a new double direction.

The EFM is producing “a large and diverse program” with CinemaChile and ProChile, Knol says.

Chilean Title Wave

(Andrés Wood)
In 1973 three extreme-right activists commit an assassination, but Gerardo is betrayed. Cut to day, the others are prestigious members of Chile’s professional class when Gerardo reappears. A major Chilean title for 2019.

(Benjamín Avila)
Historical drama set in 1973 about a cardinal struggling to help victims of Chile’s dictatorship. Magma Cine, Storyboard Media and Manny Films produce. Shooting in 2020.

(Patricio Guzman)
Chile’s preeminent documentarian explores the country’s enigmatic Andes completing a trilogy with “Nostalgia for the Light” and “The Pearl Button.” In Cannes Special Screening. SA: Pyramide Films

(Cristián Jiménez)
From Parox and France’s Rouge Intl., presented at Cannes Fantastic 7, a reflective political thriller in which, under Pinochet, a political prisoner, digging his way to freedom, imagines a Hollywood movie about his feat. Thirty years later, the film gets made.

(Pablo Larraín)
“No’s” Gael García Bernal and Larrain re-team on this film about modern parenting, co-written by “Araña” scribe Guillermo Calderón. Festival slates beckon.

(Omar Zuniga)
Inspired by 2015 Berlin short winner “San Cristobal,” Zuñiga’s feature debut is a story of empowering gay love set in southern Chile. Produced by Zuñiga’s Cinestación partner Dominga Sotomayor.

(José Ignacio Navarro Cox, Jorge Campusano, Santiago O’Ryan)
A standout from the Latin American animation boom, this Lunes CineTV-Fabula production sees a post-apocalyptic corporate dictatorship attacked by bums looking to reestablish the status quo.

(David Albala)
Albala’s fiction feature debut, a suspense thriller produced by Chile’s Calibre 71, Storyboard Media and Grey Capital, based on a 1990 jailbreak by political prisoners.

(Sofia Quiros Ubeda)
A Costa Rica-Chile-Argentina-France co-production and Quiros’ feature debut, a Caribbean-set drama turning on a 13-year-old girl who uses fantasy to cope with death. Critics’ Week. Sales: Totem Films.

(Felipe Rios)
A retired truck driver finds unexpected enlightenment during his final trip toward a desolate Southern Chilean town. Quijote Films produces.

(Sebastián Muñoz)
A ’70s-set homoerotic prison drama based on a pulp novel tracking the sexual, often-violent and eventually murderous experiences of 20-something narcissist Jaime. Sales: Patra Spanou.

(Pablo Mellado)
A Cintamani Films-Yawar Prods. production exploring how Native American music and dance has influenced a Northern Chilean community. Sales: Adler Ent.

(Felipe Gálvez)
2018 TorinoFilmLab winner, set in 1893 showing how Chile’s South was won: with genocide and nascent capitalist greed passed off as civilization. A buzzed-about title boasting prestige production partners. In Cannes Atelier.

(Nanni Moretti)
A box office hit in Italy, relating how the Italian embassy hosted hundreds of asylum seekers after Pinochet’s 1973 coup. Sales: Le Pacte

(Jorge Riquelme)
A horror-thriller exposing the roiling tensions of a seemingly ordinary Chilean family that swept Toulouse’s 35th Films in Progress, often a bellwether for big fest play.

(Melina León)
Directors’ Fortnight. Peruvian León’s stylish expose of 1990s baby napping in Peru, a B&W slow-boiling thriller with noirish dashes. Sales Luxbox