Cine Las Americas Day 6: Chilean Cinema of the Post-Dictatorship Era

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Cine Las AmericasThis year, Cine Las Americas is starting a guest country retrospective and selected Chile as the inaugural guest country. Focusing on Chilean cinema from 1994-2004, the selection is as diverse as the rest of the festival's programming.

After the 17-year reign of General Augusto Pinochet, democracy was restored to Chile in 1990. The Pinochet era consisted of notorious oppression, censorship and torture. It's not surprising that post-Pinochet Chilean cinema reflects the context of the consequences of their recent history, as seen in Amnesia, directed by Gonzalo Justiniano in 1994.

Written by Justiniano and Gustavo Frias, Amnesia starts as a serious drama, but smoothly transitions into an existential exercise of torturer versus tortured, and to what lengths someone would, or should, go to avenge themselves, and forgive those who trespass against them.

The opening sequence introduces us to a nervous man obsessed with someone from his past. After seeming to spy him again, despite the man having a scarf-covered face, Ramirez doggedly trails this ghost to confront him. From there things get absurd, as the story of their sordid history plays out in a prison camp in the desert.

It plays like a Peter Sellers satire, to the point that the lead (Pedro Vicuna) even resembles Sellers, complete with ridiculous characters brandishing hard truths. Each scene seems to reflect a specific reality of the dictatorship era, and the film ultimately leaves the questions of vengeance and forgiveness in the hands of the audience.

Director Jorge Olguin's 2002 vampire-goth thriller, Sangre eterna (Eternal Blood), is a goth punk mindgame of a film. Co-written with Carolina Garcia, the story follows college student Camilla, who fixates on an enigmatic schoolmate. As her relationship with "M" grows, she's drawn into his world. The first Chilean film to use special effects, Sangre eterna flirts with greatness but frequently grows too clever, from abrupt editing and sound to telegraphing expressions in the final scenes. Ambiguity is not always a bad thing. And as a friend said: pick one or two elements, not all of them. Still, as Olguin's second feature, it's clear he's a director to watch. His third feature film, Solos (Descendants), screens on Monday night (Alamo Village, 9:45 pm).

Other films in the Chilean Cinema retrospective include Historias de futbol (Dir: Andres Wood, 1997), Coronacion (Dir: Silvio Caiozzi, 2000), La fiebre de loco (Dir: Andres Wood, 2001), Taxi para tres (Dir: Orlando Lubbert, 2001), Sexo con amor (Dir: Boris Quercia, 2003), and Promedio Rojo (Dir: Nicolas Lopez, 2004). Check the Cine Las Americas website for more information and scheduling. Cine Las Americas runs through Thursday, April 30.