As in other parts of the world, Chile regulates public life due to the coronavirus pandemic, asking residents to stay indoors. The Culture Ministry has thus released national audiovisual works free of charge. Chile Today brings you the top 10 Chilean movies and series to watch during this time.
All the movies and TV shows below are free to watch via the ondamedia website. The site lists about 1,500 audiovisual items. This supplements the National TV Council’s release of 300 national titles to the public.
With 1,800 titles to choose from, a starting point is difficult to find. Chile Today is here to help by recommending the five best movies and the five best TV shows.
1. Johnny 100 Pesos
Released in 1993, this movie marks the beginning of modern Chilean cinema. It tells the story of a 17-year-old boy, played by Armando Araiza, who joins a group of hardened criminals to rob a money laundering store that doubles as a video rental. But the robbery goes wrong and the criminals end up locked inside the store with the hostages while negotiating with the new democratic government.
Filmed in the style of a Hong Kong action film, Johnny 100 Pesos deals with the themes of crime and the difficulties of democratic transitioning, driven by the sub-plot of the government’s attempt to resolve the hostage situation. The movie received high praise and became the first Chilean film to make it to the preliminary selection for the Oscars.
Chile Today has a complete review here.
Released in 2012, NO was the first Chilean movie that got a nomination for the foreign language Oscar. It tells the story of how publicist René Saavedra, played by Gael García Bernal, helped create the NO campaign in the months before the 1988 plebiscite on Pinochet’s continuation in power.
Filmed with an old tape camera from the 1980s, the movie appears in an old, faded look, resembling a VHS tape. This creates the impression that viewers are watching tapes from the 1980s. Another feat of the producers was to hire the same actors that acted in the NO commercials to appear in the film as their real personas.
3. Una Mujer Fantastica
This is the first Chilean film that won an Oscar for best foreign film. It was released in 2017 and tells the story of trans woman Marina, played by Daniela Vega. Marina is a waitress aspiring to be a singer. She falls in love with Orlando, a divorced, older man. They establish a relationship and draw up life plans but Orlando dies before they materialize. The movie then follows Marina’s attempts to deal with her lover’s death while being harassed by his ex-wife and children.
Critics lauded the movie for its depiction of themes related to the LGBT+ community.
4. Violeta Se Fue A Los Cielos
Violeta Parra is among Chile’s most popular folk artists. A visual commemoration of her life released in 2011 and was a complete success. Actor Francisca Gavilán brings Violeta Parra’s story to the big screen by interpreting the folk hero as a pioneer, starting out from bitter poverty in the south to creating a new genre, called Nueva Canción Chilena.
The movie was inspired by the biography Violeta’s son, Ángel Parra, wrote. Our latest Chile Today Podcast has more on Violeta Parra.
5. Tony Manero
Critics called this movie ‘wonderfully strange’. It released in 2008 and follows Raúl Peralta, played by Alfredo Castro, a 50-year-old man obsessed with Tony Manero, the John Travolta character in Saturday Night Fever. Peralta even imitates Manero’s manners and dance moves whenever he can.
The movie begins with Raúl attempting to win a Tony Manero look alike contest. It then delves into the darker side of this obsession, which leads Peralta to commit crimes, so he can get a white suit to help him win the contest. This story takes place during the Pinochet dictatorship, giving his mission an even grimmer touch and provoking dire consequences.
6. El Remplazante
This show’s title translates to ‘The Substitute’ and tells the story of a rich stockbroker who loses everything after some dicey investments. The broker must serve three months in jail and upon release moves back in with his parents in a low income neighborhood. To earn money, he accepts a job teaching math at a local school where he tries to help the kids build better futures while his students teach him the value of things other than money.
This two-season show started in 2012, just after the massive education protests emerged, and ran until 2014. It sparked interest because it examined the failures of the educational system.
7. Mary & Mike
This miniseries follows Mary and Mike, a couple with dark secrets related to the dictatorship. Mary is a writer and Mike is a former CIA agent. They live in a big house with their kids and host parties to which they invite many important figures. Unbeknownst to most, the couple also works for the notorious DINA secret service. The show revolves around their family and free-time activities while they also torture and kill important figures from the toppled Allende government.
With only six episodes the show was well-received when it released in 2018. It is currently broadcast in Spain.
8. Los 80
Los 80 (or ‘The 80s) is among the country’s most successful TV shows, running seven seasons from 2008-2014. Most episodes broke ratings records. The show is about a typical middle class family from Santiago, which partakes in, and attempts to survive, the various historical events during the decade.
The series begins in 1982 and ends in 1990. Events the show processes include the 1982 financial crisis, the assassination attempt against Pinochet, the visit of Pope John Paul II, and the 1988 plebiscite which ended the dictatorship.
9. Martín, El Hombre y La Leyenda
A biopic of Chilean boxer Martín Vargas, this miniseries only has four episodes that chronicle Vargas’ humble origins in Osorno and his rise to fights for the world title in the 1970s that gripped the country. The series also touches on the effects his fame had on his family and his relationship with managers.
Vargas inspired a nation that was about to come under a dictator’s thumb.
10. Bala Loca
‘Stray Bullet’ is about a crippled journalist in his 50s who quits his job to start his own online newspaper to unmask corruption in Chile. The protagonist is also investigating the death of a fellow journalist who was supposedly killed by a stray bullet. During his investigation he uncovers a massive corruption scandal that would bring the government to its knees.
This show lasted for one season with 10 episodes, broadcast in 2016. While critics praised the show, low ratings led to its cancellation.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.