Chilean filmmaker Felipe Ríos’ “The Man of the Future” holds the unique distinction of being the only film from his country to participate in the main competition at Karlovy Vary Film Festival, where it world premiered on Wednesday evening.
Set on the highways of the the seemingly endless ranges of Chile’s southern Andes, Ríos’ road film tracks an estranged father and daughter who end up on the same lonely road south, he a truckdriver and she a hitchhiker in separate rigs.
The unplanned encounter offers the opportunity of reconciliation, and possibly a path to a shared future. The minimalist film set in anything-but minimal surroundings also proved a chance for Ríos to face his own troubled relationship with his father.
“The Man of the Future” is produced by Chile’s Quijote Films and co-producers Sagrado Cine and La Unión de los Ríos. Celebrated Argentine filmmaker Alejandro Fadel, a two-time Cannes participant with 2012’s “The Wild Ones” and last year’s “Murder Me, Monster,” co-wrote the screenplay.
It stars Chilean TV star Antonia Giesen (“Río Oscuro”), Pablo Larraín regular José Soza (“The Club,” “Neruda”) and Argentine rising star on both sides of the camera María Alche, who wrote and directed last year’s Locarno and San Sebastian standout “Familia Sumergida.”
Ríos talked with Variety ahead of Karlovy Vary about writing with Fadel, his relationship to the story and who the real “Man of the Future” is.
This is the first Chilean film to screen in the main competition at Karlovy Vary. How did that come about?
It’s a great honor to be able to premiere the film in a festival as important and lively as Karlovy Vary. Not only because it is the first time that Chile has a film in the official competition, but also because it is the result of a very long process. Being able to share the material for the first time with the public after so long is very comforting for me. I have a lot of anxiety before seeing how viewers react. For me, to screen the material with the public is, in a way, to return to the origins of the project, to its premise, which is to travel, and feel the emotions of another.
Can you talk about the screenwriting process with Alejandro Fadel? Where did the story come from?
Alexandro was key to the writing process. He had a very different way of approaching the story. From the beginning he wanted to center the story around Elena, who was a secondary character at first. He always had a lot of respect for my creation space, but at the same time he always maintained a strong point of view, and that constant debate helped me find an appropriate way to express the emotions I wanted to communicate. I think Fadel’s work in writing and filming, and lead actress Antonia Giesen on set, helped me to be able to connect with the feminine side of the story, which in my opinion is the most interesting part of the film.
Michelsen is a man who belongs to a world of the past that is disappearing around him, so why did you choose the film’s title?
For me it is very important to be able to capture spaces, characters, customs and looks of a world that is endangered, such as Patagonia. I think that those men and women who live in such an isolated world can often lack the tools to express their emotions, perhaps because of the presence of a silence so deep that sometimes it’s preferable not to speak. I connected a lot with that way of relating, even though I’m from the city and am part of a supposedly hyperconnected world. I find myself unable to connect emotionally with others in a sincere way. I think we are in a world where one tends to focus on individualism and dodge real human relationships. Elena shows a tremendous valor in facing her father who she hasn’t seen for years and try to heal old wounds. To me, she is the man of the future.
This is your first feature film. How did you find the process?
First, I let myself fall in love with environments that inspired me. I listened to the few words of silent people and felt the temperature of a cold and distant place. But as time went on, I realized that was just the context for telling something that I had inside, which was my relationship with my father. I used my biography, pains that I’ve had since childhood, and I realized that that world that created me was the right setting to express my emotions. For me, art becomes a kind of therapy, a medicine. For a long time, I thought I was writing about a trucker in Patagonia. It was a revelation when I realized that the story I had in my hands was about my relationship with my father.
This film is very Chilean in its language, look and characters, but the themes it addresses are completely universal. What is its intended audience?
I find it wonderful that such a remote and particular place can be the context to talk about how important and difficult it is to forgive. I felt a great need to capture the essence of that place and to be able to make the viewer travel on those southern routes, but without neglecting the most important part for me, which is to be able to empathize about something nobody can escape, which is the relationship between parents and children, and the ability to close wounds that often come from early childhood.