Chileans have played a greater role in global cinema than most people realize, though it’s best not to exaggerate. It has its origins, surprisingly enough, in the Tierra del Fuego town of Porvenir, where German-born José Bohr made an early movie before eventually finding an erratic Hollywood career. Many recent Chilean films are available on video or DVD.
With state support in the late 1960s and early 1970s, talented but noncommercial filmmakers did some truly audacious work, most notably Jodorowsky’s esoteric Mexican western El Topo (The Mole, 1971). Miguel’s crime melodrama El Chacal de Nahueltoro (The Jackal of Nahueltoro, 1968) was a Chilean hit, but he’s best known for Alsino and the Condor (1983), filmed in exile in Nicaragua, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film. His more recent Tierra del Fuego (2000) is, in the director’s words, an “existentialist western.”
The France-based Raúl has directed many films, but only the psychological whodunit Shattered Image (1998) has appeared in English. Ruiz took on Marcel Proust in Time Regained (1999), based on the last volume of Remembrance of Things Past, which starred Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, and Vicente Pérez.
Documentarist Patricio Guzmán (born 1941) earned a certain fame for La Batalla de Chile (The Battle of Chile, 1975–1979) on the Unidad Popular and its overthrow by Pinochet. More recently, he has produced The Pinochet Case (2001), on the dictator’s arrest and its aftermath, and Salvador Allende (2004), about the man Pinochet overthrew.
Chilean-born but Spanish-bred, Alejandro Amenábar wrote and directed The Others (2001), a subtle haunted-house story with a twist. The youthful (born 1973), multitalented Amenábar also wrote the musical score. Gustavo Graef-Marino (born 1965) directed Johnny Cien Pesos (1993), a character-driven Santiago crime story based on true events, and the Hollywood action movie Diplomatic Siege (1999).
Other recent films to look for include Andrés Wood’s (born 1963) Historias de Fútbol (Soccer Stories, 1997) and Machuca (2004), a tale of growing up in Chile’s early 1970s turmoil; Cristián Galaz’s El Chacotero Sentimental (The Sentimental Teaser, 1999), about a sympathetic radio talk show host; and Orlando Lubbert’s (born 1945) Taxi para Tres (Taxi for Three, 2001), an action comedy with social undertones set in a poor Santiago neighborhood. The latter earned a “Concha de Oro” best-picture award at Spain’s San Sebastián film festival.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition