After the end of the Mar del Plata Film Festival last week in Argentina, I was left wondering which other festival could really come up and compete with the only A Class Festival of Latin America.
No name came up in my search, but my mind went constantly back to the Valdivia Film Festival of last October in Chile. While I don't think it'll ever grow to the place that Mar del Plata has in the region, I think that it's certainly among the most valuable of the continent, as it features both staples of quality festivals, while at the same time maintaining a certain edge that makes it memorable, even months later.
So, while I collect my thoughts on the great days I had in Mar del Plata, let me number some reasons as to why Valdivia should be the "other" festival that the world should look at. Be prepared to be surprised in the future.
Fragile Films, Strong Cinema
The Valdivia Film Festival is a competitive one, it has juries and four competitions: International, Chilean, Latin American Short Film and Kids Short Films (the jury of this last competition is a group of 6-10 years old boys and girls from the schools around Valdivia). In each of these competitions you can see a curated approach towards the selection of films that are always on the verge of being completely obscure, and their participation here helps them to be known in other festivals around the continent and the world.
From first features of filmmakers mostly known for their short film work (El Auge del Humano by Teddy Williams, Viejo Calavera by Kiro Russo and Territorio by Alexandra Cuesta), to filmmakers returning to their second or third features, but completely changing the style and approach from their earlier work (El Cristo Ciego by Christopher Murray is a more spiritual work than his earlier features, which were more mocking in nature, and Lumières d'été by Jean-Gabriel Pèriot is the first time that he has worked with actors, and here he even films in Japan, far from France and his usual subjects in his documentary and performative work).
The Chilean Competition, at this time, is more a blessing than anything, as the majority of these manage to get a local release in the immediate months after the festival is over, for example 7 Semanas by Constanza Figari will get a release next week, while Pastora a documentary by Ricardo Villarroel, won the local documentary film festival and will get a wide release early next year.
The two winning films from the Chilean competition showcase the best that our cinema has to offer, with Mala Junta by Claudia Huaiquimilla being a fiction film that deals both with youth and the political angle of the indigene population in the south of Chile, while El Diablo es Magnifico continues the areas of interest by director Nicolás Videla, this time making a docu-fiction about an trans named Manu who lives in Paris, making it both heartfelt and really funny. Important films for the Chile of today.