A key project at this year’s Santiago Lab, the Santiago Intl. Film Festival industry forum for promising Latin American projects, Florencia Dupont’s “Aracne” is representative of a push from the next generation of Chilean filmmakers into genre cinema and the themes it can explore.
“Aracne” turns on Beatriz, a young journalist at a small Santiago newspaper in the ‘40s where the bosses have little respect for her work. When she’s not relegated to covering beauty pageants and fashion stories, she takes care of her catatonic mother.
With little to do in her free time, Beatriz begins investigating the corruption in Santiago’s underbelly. While working the case from home, she notices the erratic behavior of her neighbor who brings home young men nightly that never seem to leave. A foreign night club singer with the voice and allure of a siren, Cristina works for a boss as caustic as Beatriz’s own at the Ovid nightclub, coincidentally an epicenter of activity in Beatriz’s investigation.
Unbeknownst to Beatriz however, Cristina is a literal spider-woman, stalking the underground web of Santiago night clubs and organized criminal violence where she can hunt with impunity for survival, for pleasure and eventually for revenge. Things get particularly tense when Cristina and Beatriz both set their eyes on the same man, but with different motives.
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While the film’s timeframe recalls a bygone era, so too will its aesthetics. Dupont imagines a Santiago of cobblestone streets and buildings from a hundred years ago, all settled under a fine winter’s mist. The concept art she shared with Variety also gives an idea of what the era-appropriate costumes may look like.
“Genre films can address issues and instigate societal change,” executive producer Pilar Díaz said in conversation with Variety. “In the case of the Santiago Lab, however, Sanfic contributes to the growth and promotion of genre projects as well as female-headed films.”
The numbers back Díaz’s claim. This year more than half the projects and works in progress at Sanfic had a female director or producer involved.
In the case of “Aracne,” not only is the project being led by two women, but features two strong female leads, one an antagonist that forgoes traditional horror tropes of violent hungry men hunting down helpless women, preferring a supernatural female monster which feasts on young, virile men for sustenance and sport.
“We feel that in terms of financing, genre cinema is looked down on compared to other fiction in Chile,” Díaz later said, speaking about the prospects facing genre projects.
“You can see that in how money is distributed among fiction projects. Although horror, thriller and fantasy films fill cinemas and generate larger fan bases, public financing is going other places,” she said.
However, “Genre and horror cinema in Chile is growing,” Dupont pointed out. “One indication is the number of festivals and market spaces now dedicated to genre throughout Chile; and it’s not just Santiago.”
She went on, “This year there have already been several successful commercial releases for genre films from Chile, and we see that as a good sign because a healthy industry needs diversity.”
“In my own personal experience, I see a community of filmmakers, a collaborative network, of everyone working in genre cinema in Chile,” she reflected. “There’s a passion for these kind moves and that’s not going to stop.”