Maite Alberdi, Chile’s foremost young documentary director, is preparing her third feature – “The Mole Agent” – which takes place in a world of private investigators and intelligence operatives. The news comes as Alberdi’s second feature, the anticipated “The Grown-Ups,” which has been acquired by Paris-based CAT&Docs for international sales, world premieres on Nov. 9 at Amsterdam’s IDFA documentary festival and Chile’s documentary scene, arguably with Mexico the most active of any Latin America country, is gaining increased recognition abroad.
Directed by Marcia Tambutti, a granddaughter of Salvador Allende, “Beyond My Grandfather Allende” scooped Cannes’ first L’Oeil d’Or, awarded in 2015 to its best documentary. In another win for Chilean documentary, Patricio Guzman took a best screenplay Silver Bear for “The Pearl Necklace” at 2015’s Berlin Festival. Chile was the guest of honor at this year’s Nyon Visions du Reel where “I Am Not From Here,” which Alberdi co-directed, a study of ageing minds’ regression to childhood, won best short in its international competition.
“‘Agent’ will be a genre blender. The aim is to work within the non-fiction boundaries on elements that habitually belong to fiction — film noirs, cop movies, thrillers,” Alberdi told Variety.
“The Mole Agent” is set up at the director’s outfit, Micromundo, and is backed so far by diverse Chile national funds including the National Fund for Development and Production and the Consejo Nacional de Televisión fund. It is also supported by IDFA Bertha Fund, which supports documentary filmmakers and festivals in developing countries.
“Grown-Ups” is produced by Micromundo Producciones in co-production with Netherlands’ Volya and France’s Mandra Films. ‘Grown-Ups’ log-line is eloquent: “Kids who wanted to grow up and instead grew old.” It also homes in on a new reality: People with Down syndrome now enjoy far higher life expectancy and “nobody has prepared them to be adults,” Alberdi said,
This has multiple consequences. In Chile, for instance, a law permits people with Down syndrome to be paid less than the minimum salary, although they perform the same productive work as others, Alberdi observed.
“Grown-Ups” turns on the lives of four classmates, all with Down syndrome, who have been attending the same school for almost 40 years: Their quarrels, misbehaviour, secrets, learning processes, loves and desires. The documentary, an intimate dramedy,creates a strong sense of empathy with the viewer.
One growing trend in Latin American movies is a build in films which portray how the lack of a developed social state pushes individuals to radical act – Rodrigo Pla’s “A Thousand-Headed Monster” or means that the less-advantaged need to depend for support on family or their neighbours – Lucia Carreras’ “Tamara & The Ladybug.” “Grown-Ups” inevitably begs the question of what will happen to its protagonists when their parents die.
Alberdi’s previous works –“The Lifeguard” and “Tea Time”– garnered a considerable number of prizes not only at specialised documentary festivals. Unusually, “Tea Time” was nominated at Spain’s Academy Awards as best Ibero-American Film. In addition, it took an IDFA Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ EDA Award for best female-directed film at IDFA, plus a best documentary award at the Miami Film Festival, DocsBarcelona, and Guadalajara Festival, among others. Co-directed by Lithuania’s Giedrė Žickytė, “I Am Not From Here” is nominated for the 2016 European Film Awards.
“The Mole Agent” will go into production in August 2017. It will be ready for delivery in 2018.
John Hopewell contributed to this article