Desierto no Cierto

By Mónica Delgado & Aldo Padilla

FICValdivia has just ended, and here at Desistfilm, we offer you an extensive review of the winners of one of the best Latin American Film Festivals around. This year, we were witness of a variety of quality international and Chilean productions, films that had been touring different film festivals and other new ones recently released specially for Valdivia. This, alongside an excellent experimental showcase and a series of magnificent restorations, gave FICValdivia the status of an outstanding film festival, arguably the best of Latin America right now.

The Jury Award for best Chilean feature was given to Nathaly Cano’s Desierto No Cierto. Aldo Padilla writes: “The north of Chile, where the film is realized, is defined by a strange mixture of ingredients. An enormous space with a few surrounding cities in a coastal space of over 2000 kilometers, its interior alive with death and living mining companies of different size, that are placed like moles in the middle of the driest desert of the planet. The recognition of this space by the lead women is a constant theme in the film, the women wondering around El Flamenco are reflected in the different layers of the territory. A space where the coastal winds leave a trail of dust in its path and where the precarious houses seem to defy the earthquakes that shake the world’s ring of fire.

Women, the desert, and earth in general are fused with one another in all their years lived between experience and fatigue, between routine and periods of intensity. The filmmaker also tries to recognize herself in this space which is also part of her origins; this is because the region where she comes from is scarce in filmmakers, though it has gained some relevance with its filming locations. This is why the path she travels in this desolate environment, in moments full of color, helps her to understand the complexity of a territory that seems to want more opportunities to be filmed. Desierto no Cierto also understands that the territory is not only that which can be stepped on and be touched, it is also the environment surrounding it. The night sky of the region, without any discernible patterns of clouds, and whose night is one of the most beautiful moments in the film.

Tierra Sola

The best Chilean Feature award was given to Tiziana Panizza’s Tierra Sola. Mónica Delgado: “For Panizza, both a natural event and the isolation that comes from living in an island located 4 thousand kilometers from the American continent, becomes deterministic factors for the conditions of life, a fact that is transformed into the metaphor of the prison, and that is also followed from inside a local jail and its events. Are jail and island the same thing? Tierra Sola answers this question little by little.

Using found footage in Super 8, fragments of different films about the island, and also different sound sources (phonographic material), the filmmaker configures the common sense of what is this island for an imaginary of the mythical, but also of the tourist, where the dispositives of the ethnographic look are questioned.

The most interesting thing about Tierra Sola is not in showing a contemporary look on the people that inhabit that island, but in the digression on some anachronistic ideas of ethnographic filmmaking. In change, through her different shots it constructs a new meaning, where the seeing eye becomes part of this analysis and registry of the human behaviors and actions. Panizza assumes the ethnographic also as a construction or discourse from the political realm, and not only as an image of the stylistic choices of the camera. Precisely, the question of whether one is living in a prison helps to resolve this exploration from the images themselves.

Let the Summer Never Come Again

In the international competition, the Audience Award was given to Pedro Pinho’s The Nothing Factory, while Let The Summer Never Come Again by Alexandre Koveridze was given the second Special Mention. On this film, Delgado writes: “The film poses a double challenge to the spectator, not only in its 200 minutes of duration but also in the experience of pixelation or imperfection of the digital format, registered from a cellphone’s camera, a defect or value that is multiplied in the big screen.

The first affront, the one of building a universe of shots elaborated from a primary resource (a camera of an obsolete cellular phone) allows the abstraction of this captured reality. That’s how, Koberidze not only transmits the impossibility of a faithful registry of reality with an obsolete gadget, he also bets to constructs this imaginary from that precise limitation. There are some moments where the filmmaker introduces shots filmed in HD, of an analogical memory, of film in 35mm and projectors, that in some way reveal the opposite pole of this technical necessity, and are used only as transit to other passages of the film or for times of reflection in first person, something which the original footage in digital doesn’t possess.

The second affront that Koberidze proposes is in the extreme registry of a city that constructs itself. Could he have told the same in less time? Why this necessity of the filmmaker to dilate the narration? In one side, there’s the possibility of fighting against the same support used, that make this digital memories expand, dealing with their own precariousness, in the other, to make an epic of this environment, disperse, in constant movement. What is clear is the idea to show this Tbilisi from the only way the filmmaker has, the texture of pixel and a world devoid of dialogues.


Clement Cogitore’s Bragino was awarded the First Special Mention. Delgado: “Braguino is located by the side of one of their characters, the family that we follow in conversations, in hunting scenes of ducks and bears, in their preocupations about the neighbor that seems to isolate itself. A divided community between to sides, the Braguine (hence the film title) and the Kiline, who we know from some visits of the children, and for some mentions to their violence and methods of intimidation. The Braguine live in function of what the Kiline do: whether they buy guns, or have better technological communication devices, or if they want to appropriate some terrains. Cogitore puts the spectator in the “Braguine zone” and from there we measure their fear and paranoia.

There’s a magnificent scene where an encounter between two sides in a “white flag” part of the place is registered, a beach where the children play. The gazes, the departures, the clear factions, the impossibility of coexistence and the frustrated game manage to synthesize this universe that Cogitore captures about the nature of fear and fear for the other. From this subtleties the filmmaker achieves the best moments of his documentary, that beyond a careful photographed Siberia in spring (a great merit) is hunting for psychological traces, of little indications of intranquility in this reduced space where the humans are feared more than the attack of a wild bear, like in the wars.


Finally, Juliana Antunes’ Baronesa was the winner of Best International Film. Aldo Padilla: “The peripheries of Minas Gerais’ capital observe Andreia, the lead character and Lediane, her friend, with their particular group of children, making plans for the future, jokes about their present or suffering part of their past, and looking once and again and with certain timidity to Baronesa, that neighborhood that seems like a salvation in front of the uncertain.

The hiperrealism present in the film generates an aesthetic in which the actions and dialogues dominate the screen. The poverty surrounding Vila Mariquinha is portrayed as an state of precariousness, not as a form of generating a sort of “miserabilism”.  For example, a small precarious pond becomes a pool or Jacuzzi where the lead characters have fun. The filmmaker doesn’t gloat in the poverty, she turns it into a tool for solidarity, where amidst this lack of resources, the neighbors become psychologists. The animals that run around are element of fun for the children, the cigarettes and food are shared and the women become empowered, while the men appearing on the film are reduced to a tool of contrasts in the script.

The complicity of Juliana Antunes with her leads is more than evident. It’s notorious how the camera flows alongside the actresses and how the light adapts to their moods. Is probable that the only way of achieving and implication by the actresses is a continuous and sincere accompaniment by the film crew. The naturality in all its beauty is shaped in the most brilliant scene of the film, where everything is interrupted by a scene where we can’t tell that what we see is fiction or not, but it’s a representation of what the film tries to achieve, something undefinable. In a few seconds the fear can be perceived with all the senses.

There’s some parallel between Baronesa and A Vizinhança do Tigre by Affonso Uchoa, not only for the geography and social situation that these two films share, but also for the structure of the film. Both films portray Belo Horizonte’s favelas, from different perspectives. The Uchoa film from an adolescent vision and Antunes from a strong feminist vision, however, both films compliment each other by showing a non miserable look of Brazilian cinema, where Uchoa and Antunes treat their characters with respect and sensibility. In the end, both films are connected from the editing, since it’s Uchoa the editor of them both, something that shows in the rhythm of both films. Uchoa takes his time to work with the ideas of Antunes, in a film of barely 73 minutes.

In chess, it is usually said that the threat is more dangerous than the execution, because the threatened player structures his tactic based on the upcoming danger. Threat becomes Vila Mariquinha in a strange limbo where, even when happiness is something sporadic, it is part of daily living, although it is know that in any minute disgrace can knock on the door. Here, the Baronesa neighborhood seems to be this paradise where the threat becomes a lesser danger, but that is far away from all that it’s known and loved. In the end, it’s good to stop and think for a moment what drives all this people moving around the world, leaving their lives behind as they know, for a little peace.