What a weird year it's been for Chilean cinema. If anything, it was a demonstration that the work critics do can sometimes weigh on the decisions that Hollywood makes.
None of the films directed by Pablo Larraín (No, Post Mortem) were box office hits, but they had enough love from the critics (and enough prizes from awards groups and even the Oscars) so that he got the gig to direct Jackie, another critical darling that will eventually get some nominations to the Oscars. I personally haven't seen the film, and consider that his other 2016 film, Neruda, is somewhat a misfire in his recent ouvre (a reminder that I did like The Club, as it made my list last year), but this makes me think that there's enough material here in my dear country (beyond Larraín) to fill the world with our stories... or maybe even to be hired to do others.
2017 starts promising with Chilean films in competition slots of the major first semester festivals, like Berlin and Sundance, and the prospect for the rest of the year is hopeful as major and new filmmakers premiere their works all over the world. That's why I put the festival where these films premiered to put them in perspective, considering where they come from and how long they've travelled.
So, here I present you my 10 favorite Chilean films of 2016. Only 2016 films are considered here, I don't count 2015 or earlier films that only got a local release last year. The first five are in order, as I consider them to be the best 5 of the year, the 5 next are just in alphabetical order. Enjoy this list and let's hope for a brilliant year for the directors and performers from this humble little corner of the world.
El Viento sabe que vuelvo a casa (The Wind Knows That I'm Going Back Home) (José Luis Torres Leiva)
Premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival
José Luis Torres Leiva is one of the most valuable cinematic voices of Chile right now, moving from fiction to documentaries with ease, as well as maintaining a visual style that favors contemplation over narrative and calm long shots over stylized saturated frames.
This is his first experiment with a documentary-fiction hybrid, where it puts Ignacio Agüero, a famed Chilean filmmaker, playing himself traveling to the island of Chiloé to investigate for a future film, a film that will actually never exist and only appears in the narrative of this film. It's in that tension between the interpretation of Agüero and the stories that the people of the islands tell him is where the film gets its narrative, where it seems that every little story, every tale, either it be grand or anecdotal, matters and is central to what is being said here about the importance of listening over the overbearing voice of a cinematic author that negates everyone else but the mind of the one at the head.
That's why it's a director who listens to people's stories who is the protagonist, and he reacts (or not) to tales of strange resurrections, failed marriages and forbidden love. A lovable and beautiful film, the best by the Chilean director by far.