With the year coming to an end, the Chilean Cinema Academy is looking for viable candidates to be Chile’s submission to the Academy Awards for the Best International Feature Film Oscar. Although it has been a tumultuous year for filmmaking due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chile still has many choices. Five films should be on the short list.
With awards season approaching, the Chilean Cinema Academy sifts through the contenders. For the first time in Chile’s history, the Cinema Academy will be the one responsible for choosing the country’s submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards for Best International Feature Film.
This is a major change from previous years in which the Ministry of Culture selected the nominee, but then this will also be a different Oscar ceremony: it has been postponed two months due to the pandemic and will take place Apr. 25, 2021.
The Academy has also presented new guidelines to allow movie submissions that have only appeared online, as most films have been forced to scrap in-theater openings. The qualifying release timeline has also been changed. Expanding last year’s timeline from October to September, this year’s submissions qualify if they were released in their respective countries between Oct. 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020.
The new guidelines have benefited many Chileans films which will now be able to qualify for the 93rd Academy Awards.
The leftist guerrilla group, Frente Patriótico Manuel Rodríguez (Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front aka the FPMR), that attempted to assassinate Chile’s Dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1986, looms large in three of the films.
Pacto de Fuga
Originally set to premier on Oct. 24 2019, but delayed until Jan. 23, 2020 because of the social outburst, Pacto de Fuga (Jailbreak Pact) is the only movie on the short list that was shown in theaters.
Directed by David Albala and based on true events, the film tells of the story of the biggest jailbreak in Chile’s history, when 49 members of the FPMR, imprisoned for their role in the Pinochet assassination attempt, escaped on Jan. 29, 1990.
The film details the actions surrounding their escape, from the time that they began digging inside one of their cells, slowly expanding the hole and the scale of their operation, until they created an 80 m (262 ft) tunnel from inside the prison to the nearby shore of the Mapocho River.
Pacto de Fuga has a crackling Oscar buzz surrounding it, mainly due to its international appeal, which has led to its worldwide release through Amazon Prime.
Tengo Miedo Torero
Tengo Miedo Torero (My Tender Matador), one of the most anticipated movie adaptations, premiered on Sep. 17, 2020 via streaming. Based on the acclaimed novel by Pedro Lemebel, directed by Rodrigo Sepúlveda, and starring Alfredo Castro, this film depicts the lead-up and aftermath of the Pinochet assassination attempt as seen through the eyes of “the Queen of the Corner,” a middle-aged transvestite who falls in love with Carlos, a young FPMR revolutionary who participated in the attack.
The film’s first screening sold over 50,000 online tickets, with the number doubling during its first weekend online, shattering previous records set by A Fantastic Woman. Following an avalanche of praise for the movie, its star, Castro, thanked everyone via Twitter.
Released June 11, 2020, Agente Topo (Mole Agent), is the only documentary on the list. This movie was directed by Maite Alberdi and stars Sergio Chamy, posing as “Sergio,” an 83-year-old widower, hired by a private investigator to infiltrate a nursing home to find signs of abuse against the elderly.
The movie follows Sergio’s attempts to investigate the nursing home as he befriends the senior citizens who live there. Slowly, Sergio finds it harder and harder to maintain his role as a mole in the nursing home and becomes another resident.
Even though the film has yet to officially premier in Chile, it has had screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, the International Film Festival of Viña del Mar, and it is Chile’s official submission to the Goya Awards for Best Ibero-American Movie.
Matar a Pinochet
Premiering on Nov. 12, 2020, and directed by Juan Ignacio Sabatini, the title of Matar a Pinochet (To Kill Pinochet) leaves no doubts about its subject. It is based on the book, Los Fusileros (The Riflemen), which chronicles the real-life events surrounding the Pinochet assassination attempt by the FPMR.
The film focuses on the relationship among the group, but the driving force behind the narrative is the dynamic between the two who led the attack against Pinochet, Comandante Tamara and Comandante Ramiro.
The movie’s premier was such a success that two additional online streams were added. Even though it is a recent film that has yet to appear in any important film festivals, Matar a Pinochet nevertheless has had enough of an impact to warrant consideration.
Lina de Lima
Lina de Lima was first screened at the Valdivia International Film Festival in 2019 and then premiered online on Mar. 19, 2020. The first fictional movie by its director, María Paz González, Lina de Lima has already become a major vehicle for its star, Magaly Solie, who has received high praise for her portrayal of the titular character, Lina, a Peruvian housemaid who immigrated to Chile to work for a rich family and sends money back home.
Every year for Christmas, Lina travels to Lima to meet with her son, but when she notices that her family has moved on without her, she decides to stay in Chile and create a new life for herself. What makes the movie memorable and charming are the musical sequences that occur in Lina’s head, which also give the movie a distinctive feel.
The movie also shed light on the immigrant experience in Chile, a topic with little coverage in most national movies but that could become a staple of Chilean cinema with the steady influx of immigrants.