Cannes Marché: Chileans document their political past and present

14 julio, 2021

By Business Doc Europe
JULY 11, 2021

The Chilean doc scene is blossoming in the wake of Maite Alberdi’s Oscar nomination for The Mole Agent. That is the message from Constanza Arena, the director of promotional agency, CinemaChile. In spite of the travel restrictions placed on Latin Americans because of the pandemic, Arena has made it to the Cannes market. Six Chilean producers are also in town.

“The situation is not easy down there [in South America]. It’s winter. Numbers are complicated. Frontiers are really tough, to let you both out and in,” the CinemaChile boss notes of how Covid is continuing to blight the region. Nonetheless, she was determined to travel to the festival.

After a year and a half of “absolute confinement “ and “very difficult moments for the industry,” Arena felt it was crucial for a country like Chile to reach out again to its global partners. Her organisation exists to put the country’s cinema, in all its guises, in the international shop window. Its slogan, “Making Chilean films global,” says as much.

Local producers are always looking to co-produce and co-finance their projects. With a relatively small domestic market of their own, they have to think beyond national borders. That’s why Cannes matters.

“Basically our job here is to say we are active, we are alive, we have plenty of films,” Arena states. “I needed to see the festival. I needed to speak to the sales [agents], financiers and distributors.”

Docs remain a strong part of Chile’s international push. Underlining the new vitality of the documentary sector, Oscar-winning director Sebastián Lelio has come aboard as producer on Cristián Leighton’s new feature documentary El Porvenir de la Mirada, a hard-hitting account of the anti-government protests in Chile in 2019. The upheaval led to the writing of a new constitution that, hopefully, will bring to an end forever the era of unaccountable dictators. The co-producer is Gabriela Sandoval from Storyboard Media.

Other docs recently completed, or in the works, include co-productions such as Swedish filmmakers Lars Edman and William Johansson Kalén’s Arica, about the consequences of a Swedish mining giant dropping hazardous waste in northern Chile, and Cristian Grez Donoso’s new feature doc Eternal Struggle, which weaves together moments in Chile’s history with the events during the recent social uprising.

It is clear that the uprising in Santiago in the autumn of 2019 (the protest movement known as the Estallido Social) has inspired many young documentary makers. Among the recent films touching on the subject include Cristian Perez’s Fixed Shots – 100 Recordings Around Dignity Square and October Is All by DM Tellier and IQ Tellier.

Meanwhile, filmmakers also continue to rake over the traumas of the Pinochet years. Another new film, Pablo Perelman’s Testimonies For The Centenary Of Gabriel Valdés, concerns a political, lawyer and diplomat celebrated for standing up against the notorious dictator.

Less than six months after travelling to LA for the Oscars, Maite Alberdi is already editing a new feature doc. Arena is keeping the details under wraps for now but the project should be ready soon.

She is nevertheless convinced that Alberdi’s Oscar nomination has given a significant boost to the doc sector, just as the nominations and awards won by Lelio and Pablo Larrain encouraged filmmakers in the fictional world.

“In my experience, almost 11 years at CinemaChile, there is an unconscious phenomenon that, whenever a national [a local filmmaker] gets to the big leagues, the young ones that come behind feel that the road is there – they can aspire and [have the ambition] for the big leagues also…now with documentary, I feel this is the same.”

For producers, financiers and organisations like CinemaChile itself, she suggests, success breeds success. They all learn just what is needed to get a film into the international marketplace – how to sell and promote it and how to get it seen. It’s about more than just making a good movie.

“Please expect Chile to be present in Locarno, Venice, San Sebastian because we are strong this year in both features and documentaries,” Arena strikes a determinedly optimistic note.