Many film festivals do certain things to appeal to a broader audience, the Santiago International Film Festival (SANFIC) does so by placing fiction and non-fiction films within the same festival categories. Each competition, however, provides its own unique perspective (whether it’s the National Talent Competition aimed at programming shorts, or the International Competition offering an eclectic assortment of films worldwide). My attendance at SANFIC last month entailed spearheading promotion for the TFI Latin America Media Arts Fund expansion, but also serving as a juror in the festival’s Chilean Film Competition.
Fortunately, my weekly schedule was arranged in such a way that it enabled me to do my jury duties in the mornings and evenings, thus devoting the rest of my time to one-on-one meetings with filmmakers. The sessions were casual and intimate, and it provided filmmakers the ideal situation to pitch and explain their projects in-development. Surprisingly, most of the projects that I took meetings with were self-reflexive in focus (with the filmmakers intimately examining their subjects and their country as a whole), and they demonstrated a palpable sense of a dramatic structure – even at such early stages. Two examples of such viewpoints were Vicente Barros Bordeu and José Vicuña Silva’s Flying Machine (Máquina Voladora), about a young Chilean amnesiac who struggles in his distinctions between fantasy and reality and strives to make a life for himself and his infant daughter, and Edison Cajas’ The Waltz (El Vals de Los Inútiles), which aims to follow two people (an idealistic teenager and a frustrated middle-aged man) participating in “citizen protest runs” in Santiago as they try to find meaning in the fractured political process and make a difference in their country. While a good portion of my conversations were devoted to letting them know about the new funding sources via the TFI Latin Fund (like the TFI/WorldView Partnership), the rest was honed in on the most important aspects of what makes a funding application a successful one: focus, access, characters and tone. The response I received from filmmakers was very positive, and they seemed encouraged that TFI is spearheading this aid to Latin American artists.
By the end of the week, after getting thoroughly acquainted with the Chilean works-in-progress, it was time to make a decision as to the winners of the Chilean Film Competition. I joined my fellow jury members – film composer Jorge Arriagada (Klimt, Mysteries of Lisbon) and actor Héctor Morales – late one evening to deliberate on the chosen films, and the rapport between us was as energetic as it was enlightening. In the end, we awarded the Best Chilean Feature Film to Pachi Bustos’ documentary Stories About the Future (Cuentos Sobre El Futuro) (pictured above), a heartbreaking look at the lives of a group of childhood friends who, now in their thirties, try to come to terms with their socio-economic standing and their squandered future prospects. To tell this emotionally-raw story, the filmmaker expertly contrasts their current lifestyles with archival footage of their childhoods, when they filmed fake newscasts together. For Best Direction, we bestowed the recognition to Alvaro Viguera for his narrative film Pérez, about the emotional clashes that erupt between a father, his new girlfriend and his rebellious daughter during a tumultuous weekend stay at a cabin. We also handed out three Honorable Mentions to the biographical doc Marker 72, the slacker comedy Valparadaise and the portraiture doc Leontina.
The breezy Santiago weather was quite the pleasant treat for me (another treat: TFI alum Lucy Mulloy also took part in the festival with TAA project Una Noche, screening as part of the International Competition), but it was even more heartening to discover such assured perspectives from Chilean doc filmmakers: fervently scrutinizing their frayed history by asserting a more hopeful future.
¡Hasta la próxima, Chile!
Jose Rodriguez is a TFI Documentary Programming Associate.