While there have been rumours that the official selection for Cannes 2012 has been prematurely released, strong denials from Cannes have proved the ‘leak’ to be false. We will all have to wait patiently for the official announcement that is set to take place on the 19th of April. In the meantime, however, the Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI) gets under way today, running until the 22nd of April. There is a strong contingent representing Chile, with 11 independent films either solely or jointly produced by Chileans, competing in several sections. We are keeping our eyes on Bonsái, which was an official selection for the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes in 2011. For anyone in London, the film is showing tonight, the 12th at The Institute of Contemporary Arts.

In alphabetical order the contenders are (click the titles for a trailer, where available):

Film Director Synopsis
Aquí estoy, aquí no  Elisa Eliash  We all know someone like Ramiro; he is one of those people to whom things always happen –although his appearance seems to suggest the opposite. Always true to himself, Ramiro stars a series of adventures and random events alternatively involving friends, couples, and potential employers. Is he a slacker or is he just depressed? In any case, he protects himself with a conviction that turns into a weapon of seduction, making him shine in every dinner table. The director of I Love You Mum commits to staging these stories, showing their points of intersection and division. It is hard to know what is real and what is imagined in this film; and the interest goes beyond the riddle, and into a constellation of stories that circle through the most modern Santiago as seen through the media. Ramiro works as a journalist and his perception –close to the center and yet marginal– transforms the events into the spokes of a bicycle wheel that has him in the center. He, the man who tells other people’s stories, the man to whom apparently nothing happens.
 Bonsái  Cristián Jiménez  Cristián Jiménez’s second feature swings between reality and fiction, the past and the present, plants and books. Julio meets Gazmuri, a somewhat renowned writer who is looking for an assistant who would type the manuscript of his last novel. He doesn’t get the job, but instead of telling Blanca –his neighbor and lover– he decides to make her believe he did: the fiction Gazmuri supposedly wrote will actually be written by Julio himself. The story? His love affair with a Literature classmate back in Valdivia, eight years before. Crossing through both sides of the story –two women, two cities, two time periods– in a playful yet melancholic swinging with a muted sense of humor and lots of music and literary references (especially Macedonio Fernández, and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, which inevitably brings back the memory of the late Raúl Ruiz) Bonsái is a new proof of contemporary Chilean cinema’s vitality and imagination.
 De Jueves a Domingo  Dominga Sotomayor  Sharing a reduced space boosts your perception of everyday life. And through the eyes of a 12 year-old girl travelling with her family you can feel the comprehension she has of those really separate backs of the head she sees from the back seat. You can hint the frictions, the small invisible details: the code that unites parents, the ideas that push them away, the suggested scorn, the quiet disdain. The camera follows the girl and his brother in moments of full child happiness, like when they get on the roof of the moving car and let themselves be deafened by the wind instead of the argument their parents are having below. On the road we can guess the enemies they share time with (both the suspicious and the relaxed ones), there are stories of death and communion, and lessons that echo as if saying goodbye. You can feel the fear of the unknown and the change that will reformulate everything. Foreign, external, and too evident elements burst into the most inhospitable, dry, and scarily desolated space and impose a new journey.
 Educación Física  Pablo Cerda  Exequiel is a teacher working in the provinces, a Physical Education teacher who lives in San Antonio, a city on the Chilean seaborne. Exequiel lives with his father in the house he was born in. Exequiel has a somewhat simpleton character, as if he were a Rocky Balboa who is apparently too comfortable to have an epic life. He’s a common, simple man, who missed opportunities, events, and jolts. And he stopped looking for them. The life of this professor who plays basketball alone needs to light up. An encounter with an old love, sad feelings, and some hope: middle-age reevaluations –what have I done with my life? And more important, what am I going to do with it? Pablo Cerda’s directorial debut breathes a welcomed classic style, a simple nature that becomes closeness. It’s not that usual to find such confident debuts, films that know where they’re going and how, and that deal with open feelings with such modesty, nobility and warmth.

 El Huaso  Carlo Guillermo Proto  Faced with the possibility of an uncontrollable mental decay, Gustavo decides to end his own life before he loses his grip on it. Now that he made the decision, he shares his wish with his family hoping to be understood, without even considering the possibility of upsetting the others. The son of a mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s and a suicidal father, he claims his illness justifies the fact that he wants to die and even sees it as a way to benefit his family. “Taking your own life is a natural death”, he says, and meanwhile his wife and children get sad, desperate, angry, and even wish for all that to end. In a swing movement that features personal desires, egoism, and even depression, an endless series of needs clash and cancel each other out. Carlo Guillermo Proto takes his own family to the screen in a story that compromises and rethinks the notion of taking care of your loved ones and, as if that wasn’t enough, has the courage to address the fear triggered by the announcement of a terminal illness.
 El Salvavidas  Maite Alberdi  Mauricio is one of those lifeguards who believe that entering the water means he did something wrong. Prevention should be enough if he does a good job. Therefore, he spends his working hours alerting and explaining over and over each and every one of the things people should and shouldn’t do, in order to have a quiet summer. While he sticks to the rulebook to avoid any sort of risk, a few yards away in the next lifeguard tower, Jean Pierre appears to be quite the opposite. He adores the attention involved in heroic recues, keeps messy if any notations in his binnacle, and is loved and praised by the crowds. The arrival of a boy who wants to become a lifeguard will give Mauricio the opportunity to explain why he believes in his work method while revealing a profound respect –and perhaps fear– for that ocean he keeps avoiding.
 Hija  María Paz González  Presented as a personal quest, Hija features Chilean director María Paz González driving through her country in the company of her mother. Along with her adorable and relentless mother, the director builds a biographical documentary, a road movie, an intimate portrait of a family’s origin. Both women stand in a universe of female stories where men are either absent or useless, as some of the scenes show. The loss, the lack, the loneliness and the need of knowing their origins, the truth and the lies, the complicity and dialogues all mingle through an original yet harmonic voice. Beyond all doubt, the most suggestive aspect of this film is the way in which González chooses to tell her story, her off screen, her direct sounds, her empty shots are more than eloquent when it comes to putting together the puzzle family stories, sometimes with pieces that are shattered or others that may seem true and even those that aren’t. If telling a family’s history reflects the country’s one, Hija stages the origin and mythology of Chilean society.
 La Maleta  Raúl Ruiz  A man walks through the city with a suitcase. Inside of it there’s a man much smaller than him. When the man carrying the suitcase gets tired, he stops, gets into the suitcase, and the other one takes over. Considered to be lost until recently, the original print for this first film of Ruiz’s exceptionally rich filmography (more than 200 titles) was found inside a mislabelled film can in Chile. The new version of La maleta was reedited by the filmmaker in 2010 and is a kind of time travel: it goes back to the past to rethink the future. And the present day as the platform from which Ruiz’s cinema projects all kinds of journeys.
 Sentados Frente al Fuego  Alejandro Fernández Almendras  “Sitting by the fire as it grows old / I silently see her face. / I look at the clay jar that still has some wine / I watch our shadows moved by the flames.” Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Fernández Almendras found the bases for his second film in these lines of the poem of the same title by Jorge Teillier. And yes, the director of Huacho keeps watching with an intimate camera that’s aware of gestures and looks, free of any traditional narrative obligation, and confident on the construction of a personal style. In his “fiction” story, Daniel and Alejandra have been together for a couple of years, and they decide to leave the urban scene and try their luck at the country. But while he seems to have adapted smoothly –he’s making a living as a land attendant– Alejandra’s health suddenly starts to deteriorate. Together they will face this change in their lives with a calm spirit, typical of people who know what’s coming and wait for it with no fear.
 Sibila  Teresa Arrendondo  Names define films, especially when a name has multiple references like in this case: because the Sibilas were the women who had the gift of foreseeing the future; and Sibila is also the main character in this documentary. Director Teresa Arredondo approaches the complex life of Peruvian writer Jose Maria Arguedas’ widow and Jorge Teillier’s ex wife: a woman who was in prison for 15 years in Peru, convicted of participating in the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso. Teresa is Sibila’s niece, so her approach is not only political but also personal and familiar. One of the most interesting things about this film is the way it mixes narrative tones, and how it acquires rhythm. The beginning has an astounding contrast with the end, the narrative and aesthetic of the story change when Sibila enters the scene in order to lend her body and voice to the director. From then on, the film becomes wilder, more savage, less urban, and at the same time more conflictive and ambiguous, as the mythical character it attempts to portray.
 Verano  José Luis Torres Leiva  A woman who just found out she’s pregnant is travelling alone. A couple wonders about their relationship. People pass through the natural springs of Cauquenes. Moments go by as the sun shines through the leafs, changing and shedding light on intimate spaces around the main character: her loneliness and reflections on her hair and skin. The sun runs through the layers of this blazing film, for which Torres Leiva finds a unique mixture of tones and textures that casts penetrating uncertainties on the screen –recorded in Hi8 digital camera and later projected on textures. Just as an image always has something to lose (and to gain) when it is filmed, Verano seems to wonder if the nature of memories also works that way; if those hidden treasures and insignificant, lonely visions can be sustained by a non-material element. In his seventh film, Torres Leiva shows why he’s one of the most awake and interesting filmmakers of his time.


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