By Mónica Delgado

Mis Hermanos Sueñan Despiertos (My brothers dream awake), the second feature film by Chilean filmmaker Claudia Huaiquimilla, is a fiction inspired by real events that happened inside a juvenile detention center. It is the story of two teenage brothers who live there with other young people waiting for their freedom. In this sense, it is a learning film, but as the director puts it, even more towards the end, it is also a denunciation film, which seeks to generate empathy with the victims of this type of reconversion and punitive policies .

The perspective of this film focuses on the character of Ángel (Iván Cáceres), and it is from his transparent and paternal gaze with his younger brother Franco, that we enter this youth center, in its dynamics, partitions, hierarchies, oppressions, but also from the relationship between peers, where apparently, beyond the differences, basic rules of coexistence prevail. On the other hand, this look from adolescents -which Huaiquimilla transmits in a jovial, close, warm way- differs from the institutional environment, which is embodied by a teacher (the renowned actress Paulina García), who becomes a bridge with the “adult” world and within the law; she who also shows understanding and tries to relieve some of the pressures typical of a prison.

In the fictional universe of Huaiquimilla, this prison looks isolated from society, an island located in an environment of field and greenery, a space that becomes at the same time a dream motif -and that is inserted in several moments of the film- where it acquires the physical dimension of freedom. This outside also incarnates with the beings that are evoked and that are absent: mothers, fathers, brothers, who seem to go on with their lives regardless of the sorrows of these young insiders. This is the case of Franco, who looks vulnerable, given the estrangement of his mother and all that it means. And it is there that this catalytic role of Angel emerges, as mediator, accomplice, ally and friend in various situations, not only with his brother but with the entire group: the arrival of new inmates, some gestures of hostility to possible “bad guys” of the place, the visit of the grandparents, or the absence of the mother. And from this intimate plane, from dreams and wishes for a better future, even the beginning of the film reveals these ambitions of getting out of jail, working, studying and having children. Human and simple possibilities that by the very fact of being in prison, can be frustrated.

In Mis Hermanos Sueñan Despiertos, the best moments come when parallel montages appear to the rhythm of cumbia or hip hop, when these fellowship encounters are started, or when Ángel generates some reflections in the group. There is a sequence where the camera listens to the characters lying on the patio while they take a break and listen (while we watch) the story of a teenager who was lynched after a false accusation. It is a fundamental moment in the film, because it is not only about describing the protagonist and his environment, but about identifying some elements of unease around the figure of the misunderstood adolescent, as a classic outsider of society. And with this, the film not only acquires the dimension of a critique of the prison system, but of the whole of society.

Although the subgenre of prisons, much loved by exploitation and other gimmicky cinema, lends itself to exaggerating or using morbid scenes, here the filmmaker Claudia Huaiquimilla flees from these conventions and chooses to construct human portraits, immersed in a social system that although does not look at all hostile (there is no emphasis on bestiality or police abuse or other prison policies) is responsible for the future or fate of these characters. However, after careful exposition of the friendship and loyalty scheme, the complaint appears in thick lines, emphasized by the texts at the end of the film that explain the fiction and its connection with reality. Not only do they generate the alert about a hostile situation and a criminal prison policy, but it could also contradict this evasion of the sobering aspect that I mentioned and that most b-series films of prison have, for example. On the one hand, the subgenre of prisons, beyond the spectacle, arises with an evasive but moralistic desire, which seeks to create awareness about what happens if you end up in a place of that type, where you are raped, massacred and alienated, and on the other, the use of these texts at the end of the film could emphasize a sum to a statistic. In any case, Mis Hermanos Sueñan Despiertos is a film that grows hand in hand with its actors, and of some situations that speak of a country, like other Latin American countries, where oppression is selective.

Cineasti of the present: Mis hermanos sueñan despiertos
Director: Claudia Huaiquimilla
Screenplay: Claudia Huaiquimilla, Pablo Greene
Photography: Mauro Veloso
Editing: Andrea Chignoli, María JoIknow Salazar
Sound: Carlo Sánchez, Miguel Hormazábal
Art Director: Karla Molina
Cast: Iván Cáceres, César Herrera, Paulina García, Andrew Bargsted, Julia Lübbert, Sebastián Ayala, René Miranda, Luz Jiménez, Ariel Mateluna, Claudio Arredondo, Belén Herrera
Producers: Pablo Greene Flaten, Mariana Tejos Martignoni
Chile, 2021, 85 min.