A Fragile Transition: Past & Present in Chilean Canadian Cinema

WNDX: Winnipeg’s Festival of Film & Video Art
Sunday October 10, 2009


There is one constant, and that is that it is there and we are here. But in as much as a new generation of Chilean Canadian filmmakers have in common with each other, there are also significant differences.

The trajectories of three filmmakers – Francisca Duran (Toronto), Eduardo Menz (Montreal/Edmonton) and Claudia Morgado Escanilla (Vancouver) – reveal strong tendencies towards alternative forms of filmmaking, but have manifest themselves in different directions and paths. Born in different decades, in different countries and subjected differently to what is the single defining moment in modern Chilean history which defines and polarizes Chileans still to this day, 36 years after the fact – the Chilean coup d’etat of September 11, 1973 and the aftermath that followed – as well as living in culturally-distinct different Canadian cities, these three filmmakers leave no doubt that they are working within the fringe (in Hoolboomian sense of the word), as neither wholly Anglophone (or Francophone) and revealing a sense of separation from the mainstream, but yet without a sense of disenfranchisement from it.

Though Duran and Morgado Escanilla have close ‘surface’ similarities – both females close in age and both born in Chile – it is actually Duran and Menz who demonstrate similar trajectories in terms a habitual back and forth weaving between grappling with the impact the coup had on their personal identities and pure technical experiments in moving image, for Duran in film and Menz in video.

During the 15 years that followed the coup, Duran and Menz lived mostly Canada – indeed, Menz was born here – while Morgado Escanilla lived mainly in Chile, coming to Canada in the early 1980’s, when she was in her twenties. In as much as she is clearly Canadian, she has also clearly retained her identity as an unhyphenated Chilean at the same time, reflected in the very Chilean practice of utilizing both of her family names. The fringe within which Morgado Escanilla works, in terms of the alternative nature of her work, is not the impact of a complicated geo-political history on an expanded sense of self within the world, but rather rooted in challenging established notions of female sexual identity.

Excerpted from the essay “A Fragile Transition: Past and Present in Chilean Canadian Cinema” by Cecilia Araneda


SCREENING PROGRAM

No Bikini (Claudia Morgado Escanilla) – 2007, 35 mm, 9 mins, drama
A young girl pretending to be a boy discovers the freedom that comes with no bikini.

Bitten (Claudia Morgado Escanilla) – 2002, 35 mm, 15 mins, drama
A mysterious man meets a mother and daughter with some delectable secrets of their own.

Angustia (Claudia Morgado Escanilla) – 1996, 16 mm, 5 min, experimental
A long and lingering look at a woman seducing herself with caresses of poetry and music.

Mechanism / Organism (Eduardo Menz) – 2005, video, 7 mins, experimental
The methods of recording human movement have evolved; have humans evolved with it? With razor-sharp choreography and a pulse-pounding soundtrack this work question’s photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s techniques for recording organic movement mechanically. Dance represents organic movement, while the camera symbolizes mechanical movement; at different points within the work, the two movements become confused and merge as the dance becomes mechanical and the camera organic.

In The Kingdom of Shadows (Francisca Duran) – 2006, 16 mm, 6 mins, experimental
“In the Kingdom of Shadows” documents a paragraph being typeset on an early twentieth-century Ludlow Linecaster. The text is taken from Maxim Gorky’s 1896 review of the Lumiere Brothers’ film Arrival of the Train at La Ciotat (1895). As the words melt into a pool of lead, the alchemical magic of printing is linked to that of cinema. The work was commissioned by LIFT (Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto) for their 25th anniversary program, “Film is Dead! Long Live Film!”

Time for Airports (Eduardo Menz) – 2009, video (5.1 surround) 16 mins, experimental
There is time that drags itself out, a chronology that hesitates, a present moment that persists, hours that never end, feelings of confinement, moments of vacancy and unconsciousness, days without a date, brief instants of an ‘individual destiny’, a bombardment of announcements in foreign languages, a synchronization of perpetual movement, all occurring in a space of circulation that holds no history, yet a thousand stories in a single moment.

Cuentos de mi niñez (Francisca Duran) – 1991, 16 mm, 9 mins, experimental
In this experimental autobiographical film, Duran remembers and recounts difficult childhood memories of the 1973 coup in Chile, when her family was forced into exile.

Retrato Ofical (2009) (Francisca Duran) – 2009, video, 4 mins, experimental
“Retrato Oficial” animates the desimulation and reconstruction of the great liberator of Chile, nineteenth century revolutionary and republican Bernardo O’Higgins, and the historical reach of the late twentieth century dictator Augusto Pinochet. Based in part on a conceit borrowed from Raul Ruiz’s essay “Images of Images” and orginal footage shot by Patricio Guzmán on September 11, 1973, this short video is an exploration of the mediates image and the mnemonic possibilities of video and still image technologies.

Retrato Oficial (2003) (Francisca Duran) – 2003, 16 mm 1 min, experimental
After declared unfit to stand trial in England, former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet stands up out of his wheelchair and greets supports in Chile.

Las Mujeres de Pinochet (Eduardo Menz) – 2005, video, 12 mins, experimental
In this experimental short, the viewer is invited to role-play through the repeated employment and alteration of the text, sound and image until his or her expectations have been truthfully realized. This video examines class structure, the meaning of beauty and forgotten history through two very different but significant women during Pinochet’s brutal regime of the late 1980’s.

Una Frágil Transición (Eduardo Menz) – 2009, video, 6 mins, experimental
Unsettling found images are brought together to form a brief history lesson into Chile’s past of the late 80’s and early 90’s, a time that parallels the filmmaker’s own childhood. As a child of the Chilean coup, the filmmaker brings forth the notion of looking in from outside. Through memory, through history, through images – it seems – lies our humanity, our connection to our world and to each other. This work attempts to take part in this idea by expressing a political yet personal viewpoint into a small fraction of a country’s history and how thousands watched from a safe outside.