Exploring Gender Issues, Indigenous Peoples, Climate Change, Teen Suicide, Chilean Docs at Cannes Doc Plumb Universal Themes

With Maite Alberdi, twice Oscar nominated for her last two docus, “The Eternal Memory” and “The Mole Agent,” and Tana Gilbert whose feature debut “Malqueridas” won the Grand Prize at Venice’s Critics’ Week, Chilean documentaries are having a banner year.

Five documentaries participate in the May 20 Chilean Docs-in-Progress Showcase at the Marché du Film’s docu section, Cannes Docs.

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Moreover, a delegation of some 15 other Chilean documentary filmmakers have swept into town with their respective projects, with themes ranging from gender issues, Indigenous peoples, climate change, teenage suicide and even, true crime.

“Chilean documentaries today touch on more universal themes, they are not so inward-looking,” Chiledoc director Paula Ossandon told Variety.

One of them, “Oasis,” has been picked up by Argentina’s Compañía de Cine to handle its international sales. Created by the MAFI filmmakers collective, this feature doc, which premiered at Berlinale, explores Chile’s failed attempt to draft a new constitution to replace the one from the Pinochet dictatorship.

“The Chilean documentary ecosystem is truly remarkable – artistically vibrant, politically engaged, and creatively diverse – and passionately supported by the organizations in charge of its global promotion, starting with Chiledoc,” said Pierre-Alexis Chevit, head of Cannes Docs, who expressed his delight at welcoming the four Chilean docs-in-progress, as well as the winner at Conecta 2023, “Searching for the Other.”

The Docs-In-Progress Chile Showcase aims to boost the financing and distribution opportunities for the works presented there. “Our documentaries have triumphed in festivals but the challenge is to get them distribution outside of the festival circuit,” said Ossandon.

The selected projects are:

“Aliyá, Yeridá,” Rafael Guendelman

In Hebrew, “Aliyá” means immigrating to Israel (going up), and “Yeridá” means emigrating from Israel (descending). Using family archives, the director examines why his family moved to Israel in the 1970s and the disappointments that led them to return to Chile years later.

“We are at a crucial stage to fulfill our goal of premiering during the first semester of 2025 after securing funding for post-production and having advanced editing. At Cannes Docs, we aim to establish connections with programmers and distributors interested in political and migration narratives. We seek to reflect on the armed conflict in the Middle East from a Latin American perspective,” said producer Joaquín Echeverría of Brisa Films.

Aliyá, Yeridá
Aliyá, Yeridá

“Unwelcomed” (“Si vas para Chile”), Amilcar Infante and Sebastián González

In 2021, northern Chile saw a major anti-immigration protest marked by violence, including the burning of tents, baby strollers and belongings. While these images spread globally, the stories of those affected did not. This account gives voice to the immigrants facing adversity and the locals enduring ongoing social conflict in the harsh Atacama Desert. Much of its visually arresting cinematography was shot with drones.

“It is a source of pride and a great opportunity to make our debut feature film visible on the international stage in Cannes,” said producer Sebastián González who, alongside fellow producer Esteban Sandoval, seeks to raise the necessary financing and partnerships to complete the film.

“The Stationary Traveler” (“Viajero inmóvil”), Fernando Lavanderos and Sebastián Pereira

Two young filmmakers ask legendary Chilean director Cristián Sánchez (70) to make a new film but with specific rules: it must feature zombies and resurrect characters from his classic films. This darkly comic documentary contrasts today’s culture’s demand for efficiency with the relaxed tranquility of the ‘70s embodied in Sánchez’s work.

“It is the first time we will show a preview of what has been a work of many years. This is a unique instance, not only in terms of visibility—being one of the largest markets in the world—but also as an opportunity to generate networks for this and the other projects in our portfolio,” said producer Francisco Hervé of Juntos Films.

The Stationary Traveler
The Stationary Traveler

“Returning Where I Have Never Been” (“Vuelvo donde nunca estuve”), Constanza Vásquez and Andrés Morales

Two journeys a century apart: In 1895, 165 Selk’nam people were captured on Tierra del Fuego and sent to Punta Arenas for domestic service. In 2021, Fernanda Olivares, a Selk’nam descendant, became the first to return to her ancestral land, proving her people are not extinct.

“Our documentary seeks to spread what the Selk’nam people have been working on for some time: to communicate to the world that they are not an extinct people and that they seek to give a new beginning to their history in their ancestral territory,” said Vásquez. Produced by Alejandra Rosas and Magdalena Ponce of Tonina Sur and Quetro Prods.

Returning Where I Have Never Been
Returning Where I Have Never Been

“Searching for the Other,” Cons Gallardo

Winner of the Conecta 2023, an international industry event aimed at linking Latin American projects with industry reps worldwide, held in Santiago, Chile.

Produced by Esteban Sandoval of Pejeperro Films, docu stems from Gallardo’s resistance to gender roles. She explores the world of non-binary Machi Marcelina, a Mapuche ancestral authority wrongfully accused of murder and witchcraft in 1995. After her release, Marcelina faced community prejudice and distanced herself. Her story inspires Gallardo to reflect on good, evil and love beyond stigmas.

The Chilean Docs-in-Progress presentation is slated for Monday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 11.15 a.m. at the Palais des Festivals.

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