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Chilean Documentaries Making Waves in 2020

Cagliostro: The Film Poet
Courtesy of Chiledoc

Chile’s documentary film industry is making a major impact internationally with a raft of projects having recently featured at Germany’s Dok Leipzig festival and another batch headed to Amsterdam’s IDFA next week. While the Pinochet dictatorship proves as unavoidable as ever when compiling a list of Chilean productions, recent works promoted by Chiledoc have proved that the country has far more to offer.

Below, 16 short, feature and virtual reality documentary titles from Chile making an impact abroad:

“Ancacoy,” (María Paz González, Nicole Böck)

Based on the real case of Margarita Ancacoy, this project in development explores the circle of violence that led to her eventual death. It’s a portrait of composition of what lies behind a murder. Uncovering recent history and mixing it with personal stories is a specialty of producers El Espino Films. IDFA bound.

“Arica,” (Lars Edman, William Johansson Kalén)

Five countries contribute to the production about Swedish mining company Boliden, which exported toxic waste to the small town of Arica in northern Chile in the mid-‘80s. Repercussions of the reckless disposal are still felt today, and the documentary tracks ongoing litigation demanding justice, compensation and a recognition of guilt from the company. The film participates in Frontlight IDFA.

“Bastard: The Legacy of a Criminal,” (Pepe Rovano)

What if someone found out that their father was guilty of crimes against humanity? This is director Pepe Rovano’s true life story, told with input from the daughters and sons of the six communist activists that were killed by his father during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

“Breaking the Brick,” (Carola Fuentes & Rafa Avellano)

With support from the DOC Society and Sundance Documentary Funds, “Breaking the Brick” examines the social, political and economic situation in Chile since the death of dictator Pinochet, through to the social uprising of the last year. This project explores the effect economic liberalism has had on Chile’s economy and on daily Chilean life. A Dok Leipzig presentation.

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Breaking the Brick Courtesy of Chiledoc

“Cagliostro,” (Orlando Torres)

Supported by the Vicente Guidobro Foundation, “Cagliostro” adapts the book “Horizon Carré” by Chilean Vicente Huidobro, who lived and worked in Paris between 1860-1930. The project leaps between the book, long forgotten, soundless film and the poet’s own life story. Producer Orlando Torres Osorio pitched at Dok Leipzig.

“The Cause,” (Macarena Aguilo)

Aguilo pitched at Dok Leipzig, looking for partners to finalize the project which is now more than 70% funded with support from Corfu and Chilean audiovisual protection funds. Director Macarena Aguilo, who was kidnapped at the age of three by the Chilean intelligence serving dictator Pinochet, based the project on her own fascinating history, and those of others like her who have been searching for justice for more than four decades.

“The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine,” (Alfredo Pourailly)

Having secured funding from four different countries, a sales deal with a soon to be named agent, and more than one-third of its footage already shot in Tierra del Fuego, this is the story about the quest for a better life. Turning on an old-man and his son searching for gold, the young man designs a machine to help his father, as he’s not qualified for social security and has no other income. Featured in the Chilean Pitching session at Dok Leipzig.

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The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine Courtesy of Chiledoc

“Malqueridas,” (Tana Gilbert)

Pitching at IDFA this year, Errante Producciones backs Gilbert’s feature debut focused on how women in prison reconstruct the experience of motherhood using videos and photographs, taken on contraband cell phones while incarcerated. “Malqueridas” spotlights the trauma of remote motherhood and the struggles these women face in dealing with confinement and lost time.

“The Mole Agent,” (Maite Alberdi)

An IDFA Best of Fest selection, “The Mole Agent” is an ambitious five-country co-production which tells the story of Sergio, an 83-year-old investigator who becomes an undercover resident at a nursing home suspected of mistreating its wards. Inside, he becomes increasingly involved in the lives of several residences, jeopardizing his responsibilities.

“Pirópolis,” (Nicolás Molina)

After a Rotterdam 2019 Bright Future mention, and with CORFO development backing it up, “Pirópilis” recently participated at Dok Leipzig’s Co-Pro Market. The project tells the story of Valparaiso’s 5th Brigade firefighters, told in the context of a global pandemic and recent citizens’ protest. The firefighters must find their place in new Chilean society as they are called into action after a major crisis.

“Relentless Memory,” (Paula Rodriguez)

With support from the Ethnological Institute of Berlin among others, “Relentless Memory” narrates the investigation performed by anthropologist Robert Lehman-Nitsche involving native Latin-American ancestors, the Mapuche, who were held as prisoners by many countries which looked to conquer land that was once their territory. Another Dok Lepizig Chilean Pitching title.

“The Sky is Red,” (Francina Carbonell)

With all legal avenues having hit dead ends and no explanation provided, this feature documentary examines the 2010 fire at Chile’s San Miguel prison which killed 81 inmates. “In 2010, the images on TV were almost Dante-esque, the manifestation of a real hell,” Carbonell told Variety in Santiago at a 2018 Sanfic festival pitch. “But after that the news faded, the media stopped covering it and it disappeared from the public sphere.”

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The Sky is Red Credit: Francina Carbonell

“Water Silhouettes,” (Violeta Paus)

A 15-minute short, Paus’ Dok Leipzig competition player focuses on three Chilean women in this composition of image and sound. Each story demonstrates one part of major conflicts which have arisen resulting from the privatization of the national water supply which has led to contamination by industrial chemicals, scarcity and pollution from garbage dumping.


“Ancestral Secret VR,” (Francisca Silva, María José Díaz)

2020’s Sunny Side of the Doc Best Digital Experiences Pitch-winner, this 15-minute virtual reality production is based on an ancient Inca prophecy which states “In the difficult times of the planet, harmony will return when the condor and the eagle fly again together,” the condor representing the indigenous Q’ero people and the eagle the globalized world. “Ancestral” demonstrates the Q’ero worldview, redefining the relationship between humanity and the planet.

“Hypha,” “Symbiotica,” (Juan Ferrer, Sebastian Gonzalez, Natalia Cabrera)

Maltrato Films had a pair of VR projects involved at Dok Leipzig. “Hypha” is a VR experience which uses the standard headset and controllers as well as a constructed installation to draw metaphorical parallels between the worlds of fungi and of humankind. “Symbiotica” is a multi-user experience in which users must work together to reconstruct a damaged biological organism, learning the impact that each part has on the whole in the symbiotic process.

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Symbiotica Courtesy of Chiledoc