Thursday, 02 February 2012 20:16
Chile’s foremost director talks to The Santiago Times about cinema, politics, and Violeta Parra.
The films of Andrés Wood delve into the essence of Chile’s national identity. From the trauma of the military coup in “Machuca” to the life of a folk icon in “Violeta Went to Heaven,” his work evokes political issues and emotions which remain painfully apparent in contemporary Chilean society.Chilean film director, Andrés Wood, at his office on Feb. 2. His film
Wood’s latest film, “Violeta went to Heaven,” which won best international drama at the Sundance Film Festival, takes a convoluted journey through the life of the folk singer Violeta Parra, whose songs resonate with the perpetual struggle for social equality in Chile.
“My core motivation for making the film was admiration. I love her music and her personality,” Wood said. “I grew up during the dictatorship and we never learned about her in school. My aim was to reinvigorate her memory and the messages she offered.”
The film avoids any form of linear narrative, providing fragmented glimpses into Parra’s troubled, yet absorbing life.
“We knew that we could not fit the entirety of Violeta Parra into 2 hours,” Wood said. “Therefore we decided instead to take a non-didactic approach, which focused more on the emotions, memories, and psychological demons of the protagonist.”
Wood remained understated when discussing his recent win at Sundance, emphasizing the difficulty of making the narrative palatable to foreign audiences.
“I was worried that the story wouldn’t translate to an international audience. People are used to seeing a specific type of film, and it is extremely difficult to steer them away from those expectations,” Wood said.
Marialy Rivas’ “Young and Wild” also earned success at Sundance, winning best international script. These accolades signified an unprecedented success for Chilean cinema, which is still recovering from almost 20 years of indiscriminate censorship by the Gen. Augusto Pinochet regime.
“I think that creatively the domestic film industry is very healthy,” said Wood, who was enthused by the quality of output from young practitioners. “However, despite this, we remain in a precarious position. Comparatively, we have a very small industry and international distribution is nearly impossible to obtain.”
Having studied film in New York, Wood stressed that his work has been influenced by a profusion of different styles and artists. However, he feels a particular respect for fellow Chilean directors such as Raúl Ruiz and Pablo Larraín.
Indeed all three of these filmmakers have made films about the military coup and retain a commitment to highlighting problems of racial or economic inequality in Chile. However, Wood was quick to point out to that you must find your own style to succeed.
“I have great admiration for all those directors, but you can’t set out trying to be Raúl Ruiz, you have to have your own vision,” he said.
Having grown up during the military dictatorship, Wood often displays an underlying theme on the struggle for social and economic equality in Chile. This is most present in “Machuca,” which conveys the trauma and loss of innocence which accompanied the military coup of 1973.
“Politics has always been important to me, however I’ve never wanted to be attached to a particular movement or party,” said Wood. “I think my film ‘Buena Vida’ has had the most direct link to the current climate in Chile. There isn’t a particular issue, but a feeling in the air, a flaw in the model as a whole.”
As for the future, Wood made no hint as to the nature of his next project. “I don’t have any fixed plans when I make films. There is little structure or premeditation,” he said. “I become enthralled by a detail or a character, then think about the macro later on.”
By Struan Campbell Gray (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright 2011 – The Santiago Times