Chile’s Cannes Docs in Progress Use the Prism of Politics, Family, and Indigenous Identity to Explore Reality

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Chile presents four powerful documentaries at Cannes DocsDocs in Progress: Showcase Chile this year, which will screen online on Wednesday July 7 and on-site on July 10 at the hybrid Cannes Marché du Film.

Most of them reflect the deep trauma the country suffered under the brutal military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1970-1990).

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“Indeed, the Pinochet dictatorship has left a very deep mark on Chilean society and today it is the daughters and sons, even the granddaughters and grandsons of those who lived and suffered at that time, who raise their voices to expose these traumas and the repercussions that they have had in their own generations,” says Chiledoc director Paula Ossandón, pointing to the social unrest that broke out from October 2019 as one of the signs. “Everything that happens to us is related to our previous history and that resonates in cinema; They are the new generations revisiting the past to understand,” she added.

As exemplified by Maite Alberdi, whose “The Mole Agent” clinched Chile’s first documentary Oscar nomination, the country’s new generation of doc filmmakers are creating films that dwell on science, human rights, generational identity, indigenous stories and personal experience at a time when the country voted to reject its Pinochet-era constitution and herald a new era.

“I believe that ‘The Mole Agent’s’ greatest contribution to Chilean cinema was to awaken the massive interest of the audience, to demolish the preconceptions and prejudices that often exist around the documentary,” Ossandón asserted

“The real success was that it became a topic of conversation at home, that people wanted to see it, that they knew that it existed and were amazed that a documentary could be funny, capable of putting issues that matter on the table, and that those topics – old age, abandonment- were finally the ones that both the media and the public were talking about,” she continued, adding that interest in docu-fiction hybrids and finding new, non-traditional forms of examining reality are also in vogue.

Despite the pandemic, the country expects to release at least 10 docs next year, slightly less than the average annual yield of 15. However, 2023 could see fewer films as production has either stalled or slowed down since last year.

Chile’s institutional funding has also been impacted by the global health crisis but for this year, state support adds up to a total of $22.5 million between the funds available for television (CNTV), audiovisual promotion and an additional emergency fund for audiovisual projects, according to the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

“Punto de Encuentro” - Credit: Courtesy of ChileDoc/Luis Costa
“Punto de Encuentro” - Credit: Courtesy of ChileDoc/Luis Costa

Courtesy of ChileDoc/Luis Costa

CANNES DOCS: DOCS IN PROGRESS – SHOWCASE CHILE

“Bajo Sospecha”

Director: Daniel Díaz Oyarzún

Producer: Pejeperro Films

Narrated by Díaz in the Mapuzugan language, his docu dwells on the arrest of his uncle, an artist, who was detained ostensibly for his indigenous looks. The arrest spurs his uncle, Bernardo Oyarzún, to portray himself as a “delinquent,” highlighting his indigenous identity and the racial stigma he has experienced through his art. Inspired by his uncle whom he works for as an apprentice, Daniel decides to become a filmmaker. Through his film, he examines his uncle’s artistic career and his own ancestors’ past as he questions his own identity and the challenges of being a Mapuche in a city.

“Bastardo, la Herencia de un Genocida”

Director: Pepe Rovano
Producer: Totoral Films, Media Lab

“When I found my father, I also found his crimes,” Pepe Rovano relates. He grew up not knowing who his father was but while working on a human rights documentary, he found his biological father – who also turned out to be involved in the notorious Las Coimas killings where communist party leaders were rounded up and executed when Pinochet came into power. He reunites with his dying father but when the father finds out he is gay, he rejects him. Pepe connects with the children of his father’s victims and decides to unite with them in their struggle for truth, memory and justice.

Edita - Credit: Courtesy of ChileDoc
Edita - Credit: Courtesy of ChileDoc

Courtesy of ChileDoc

“EDITA”

Director: Pamela Pollak

Producers: Pollak Films and Austral Content

A visit from her uncle Jarda, now in the eighties, who brings with him a VHS camera and the ashes of his mother, Pollak’s great aunt Edita, triggers an exploration by Pollak of her fascinating great aunt. Employing voiceover, screenshots, home videos and other documentary devices, Pollak examines the life of Edita who her family alleges was a Trotskyist and a Bauhaus art student when living in Prague where she witnessed and experienced the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism. The question lingers on whether Edita had lost her mind.

“Punto de Encuentro”

Director: Roberto Baeza
Producer: La Toma Prods.

Two filmmakers attempt to reconstruct the memory of their respective fathers, revolutionary leftists who were seized when they themselves were only babies. Both fathers were taken to torture prisons where one survived and the other vanished. As they recreate the scenes in the actual places of torture with actors and involve even the grandchildren in the staging of the incidents, one of them wonders if she’s doing harm to her father, the survivor, as he recovers gaps in his memory. The filmmakers grapple with doubts on whether they can “truly evoke something so unbelievable.” The experience proves painful but cathartic for all three generations.

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