Led by a special screening slot for celebrated documentarian Patricio Guzman’s “My Imaginary Country,” plus Directors’ Fortnights “1976” and a new short by 2018 Cinéfondation prizewinner Diego Céspedes in Critics’ Week, Chile boats the biggest presence of any Latin American country at Cannes.
“Our cinema is a living and pulsating entity, a cinema full of risky auteurist viewpoints that are capable of expressing our particular experiences in a universal way and at the same level playing field as bigger filmmaking territories, says CinemaChile executive director Constanza Arena, taking note of Chile’s strong showing.
“The directors of a new wave of Chilean cinema take on powerful themes with deep socio-historical weight, but with fresh stylistically innovation, whether it’s political trauma in ‘1976’ by Manuela Martelli, or the LGBTQ+ theme in ‘Las Criaturas que se Derriten Bajo el Sol’ by Céspedes. With their daring, they are pushing forward a new generation of Chilean and Latin American cinema,” Arena observes.
Chile’s Quijote Films also co-produces Directors’ Fortnight title “Pamfir,” a Ukrainian drama also from Poland’s Madants and France’s Les Films D’Ici.
While Céspedes, 27, prefers not to delve into Chile’s past political trauma, Martelli, a renowned actress (“Machuca,” “Il Futuro”) whose directorial feature debut “1976” follows a middle-class woman who is inexorably drawn into the horrors of the Pinochet dictatorship, feels that the female gaze on this horrific period in Chile’s history has been rarely explored.
“With the proliferation of film schools over the past 10 years in Chile, there certainly has been an upsurge of diverse viewpoints, including the feminine,” she says, noting that there is a revitalized energy and freedom to dabble in new themes.
Indeed, at least 10 Chilean films have already made an impact this year, from Oscar nominations for two (“Bestia,” “Spencer”), a Sundance selection for Francesca Alegria’s magical eco-themed “The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future,” Malaga and Rotterdam berths for Bernardo Quesney and Roberto Doveris, and Toulouse, Guadalajara and Tallinn Black Night prizes for Nicolas Postiglione’s debut feature “Immersion.”
For Postiglione, who spent the first 10 years of his life in the U.S. before moving to Chile, his stories are set in Chile but his sensibility and working style is American. “I was then living in the U.S. so I’d feel like an opportunist if I went down that road,” he says on whether he’d make a film about the period when Augusto Pinochet’s brutal military regime ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990.
Céspedes, born five years after that dark era ended, belongs to Chile’s new generation of filmmakers who are more influenced by the trends in world cinema and avail of new, inexpensive technology that has made filmmaking more accessible. His upcoming debut feature, not unlike his two shorts, are seen from a child’s viewpoint. “The Mysterious Gaze of the Flamingo” is set in a mining camp beset by an unknown ailment.
Alejandro Fernandez, best known for his Sundance-winning revenge thriller “To Kill a Man,” is venturing into what he describes as metaphysical science fiction for his seventh film, “The Gray Beyond.” “I’d been developing it since 2015 and the pandemic inspired some key changes,” says Fernandez, who cites among his influences “Blade Runner,” “Alien” and Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker.”
“The pandemic also had one other good outcome: more people discovered Chilean cinema,” says his producer Florencia Larrea, who says that Onda Media, the streaming service offering only Chilean films, saw a boom in viewership. There’s indeed a spirit of hope in the air, spurred by the pledge of President-elect Gabriel Boric, 35, to more than double the state’s contribution to the arts.