It’s a cool, quiet night in Parque los Reyes. Skaters drone back and forth through the skate park, a few street dogs amble around in no particular direction, and the daylight is quickly disappearing. Further down the path, just as the noises and lights of the park start to diminish, the gray walls and pointy eaves of Centro Experimental Perrera Arte appear between the shadows of the trees. Although the building at first looks formidable and perhaps even abandoned, after a few minutes the doors open wide and the welcoming light from inside falls out into the park.
This dark, but ultimately inviting location, a garbage incinerator turned dog pound turned cultural center, is perfect for the first showing of “Camino al cementerio” (The way to the cemetery). Walls of iron bars separate the interior space down the middle and cordon off cage-like sections on one side. On the other side, vivid images splash against the wall: projections of clips from different Calle Producciones films. The images show possessed women with demonic eyes, collages of lustrous vegetables juxtaposed with bags of severed pigs’ heads, graphic sexual images, and, surprisingly, bright, open landscapes. The subsequent viewing of the independent production company’s new short film reveals that what at first seems to be a gruesome horror fest in fact goes beyond the obvious themes of violence and grit to play with the ideas of good and evil, the fantastic, and death.
After a few hours of expectant chatter and a viewing of an older short film entitled “No hables,” (Don’t speak), the feature presentation begins. The opening sequence promises foul play: It consists of a fixed, tilted shot of rail road tracks accompanied by the sound of dogs barking, crows cawing, and invisible flies buzzing around angrily. The train comes toward us loudly and seems to pass just to our left, and the camera remains tenaciously pointed at its wheels. When the roar of the engine has passed, the nature sounds continue calling out their warnings. Nothing has actually happened, but this first scene sets a baseline for the film to follow with its foreboding sound effects and by immediately bringing aggressive action to the forefront.
The film is too short to give too much away, but the story of a rogue car wanted dead or alive and the two men who stumble across it leaves the audience at once stunned and laughing. Two wandering men with ambiguously straight faces seem to be the closest thing to protagonists, although we know nothing of their personalities or their past. Long shots of barren landscapes and Tarantino-esque Western melodies culminate in a protracted duel between man and object. Each subsequent clash, however, complicates the message of the film. In order to rectify the destruction caused by the violent and irrational car, one of the protagonists must repeatedly kill other living beings. Rather than a battle between good and evil, “Camino al cementerio” creates a world where every act ultimately ends in bloodshed.
Blood is literally spilled, splashed, and squirted along the way, but the shots of the actual violence are choppy and full of ellipses. And even in the most violent moments, a comedic element always bursts out, whether it is a close-up of a man in a wife beater huffing and puffing about his dead cat or the bewildered look on the protagonist’s face after he has extinguished a life. The film ends without forming a clear distinction between hero and villain, reveling in blood and guts and casualties, but rather than striking a depressing note it seems to suggest that life is a series of inexplicable events ultimately leading to death and that the best must be made of the absurdity at hand.
In contrast to their potentially daunting content, the team behind Calle Producciones exudes openness and delight at sharing their work with the public. Carla Pastén, producer and still photographer, and Mijael Milies, director, have been heading up the production company together since 2008. Pastén is quick to point out that all the work that goes into their creative projects comes from pure good will, as they have no way of compensating the crew and talent monetarily. Milies, describing what they strive to achieve in their projects, says, “Basically what we want to show are fantastic stories that are related to fear, pain, violence, blood, and black humor. We want the spectators to have a different experience watching our work, that they question what they see and question themselves, and of course, that they have fun.” This objective comes across clearly in the ominous but celebratory mood of the evening and the lasting impression of “Camino al cementerio.” But behind the bravado and good will of their opening night lies a struggle to continue to execute their vision.
For Milies, there is no film industry in Chile today. Although there are more resources available in general, he says that independent films don’t get funding because of the commercial risk involved. He suggests that the system be separated into categories to allot equal funds to the winning projects within each genre, rather than all the films competing with each other. Under the current system, Milies criticizes the narrow spectrum of both themes and structure found in films today because, in his words, “not all of us like to tell traditional stories that talk about everyday situations.”
“Camino al cementerio” certainly does not tell a traditional story about every day situations. It tells the violent story of an evil car that drives itself. And sure, the editing could be tweaked and the characters sometimes verge on caricatures, but the film accomplishes what Milies sets out to do: it makes us question what we’re watching, question ourselves, and in the end, laugh. In the final shot the two men face off against the car but we never know for sure what happens. That seems to be the parting message of the film as well as the film makers. They hit us in the face with strong imagery and a complex, absurd narrative, and leave us to form our own conclusion.
Look for “Camino al cementerio” in upcoming film festivals or you can watch trailers and past projects at http://calleproducciones.jimdo.com/. You can also check out Calle Producciones at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Calle-Producciones/334411435627.
Dogs bark, crows caw and invisible flies buzz angrily as an air of tension fills a motionless scene. Suddenly, a train races toward the screen and whizzes by just to the left, but the camera remains tenaciously pointed at its screeching wheels. Though the roar of the engine fades, the sounds of nature still call out in warning. In just the opening sequence, Camino al cementerio (“The way to the cemetery”) already promises foul play.
The new short film by Calle Producciones opened March 26 at Centro Experimental Perrera Arte to an enthusiastic crowd. Perrera Arte, a former dog pound with high ceilings and ominous iron cages, provided the perfect atmosphere for the premiere. To further set the scene, vivid images from Calle’s former flicks splashed against the wall: possessed women with demonic eyes, colorful vegetables juxtaposed with bags of severed pigs’ heads, graphic sexual images and, in jarring contrast, bright, open landscapes.
After a few hours of expectant chatter and a viewing of an older short film entitled No hables (“Don’t speak”), the feature presentation, starring a rogue car wanted dead or alive and the two men who stumble across it, left the audience seesawing between laughter and shock. The two wandering men of ambiguous appearance seem to be the closest things to protagonists, though by the end of the film we still don’t know whether to sympathize with them or not.
Following the opening train sequence, a series of barren landscapes and Tarantino-esque melodies culminate in a lengthy duel between man and car. In order to counter the evil deeds of the violent and irrational car, one of the men must repeatedly kill other living beings. Each clash further confuses the line between hero and enemy. But one thing’s for sure in Camino: Every action, no matter whose, ends in bloodshed.
Blood spills, splashes and squirts across the screen. Even in the most violent moments, though, a comedic element always shines through — whether it’s a man in a wife-beater babbling incomprehensibly about his dead cat or the bewildered look on the protagonist’s face after he has killed again. The film revels in blood and death and ends without defining good and evil. But rather than depressing the audience, it seems to suggest that life is a series of unexpected conflicts and that the best must be made of the absurdities at hand.
Director Mijael Milies and Carla Pastén, producer and still photographer, who have been heading the production company since 2008, are excited to share their work with the public. “Basically, what we want to show are fantastic stories that are related to fear, pain, violence, blood and black humor,” Milies told Revolver. “We want the spectators to have a different experience watching our work, to question what they see, to question themselves and, of course, to have fun.”
Unfortunately, Milies says, the current state of Chile’s film industry makes it difficult for him to reach his desired audience. Although there are many resources available in general, he says independent films don’t get enough funding because they’re seen as risky business. This film, Pastén adds, was made on a shoestring budget by crew members generous enough to volunteer their time.
Milies suggests that government budgeting could be more effective if funds were divided equally among the different film genres instead of having every film compete with one another. Milies criticizes what he calls the narrow spectrum of creativity found in films funded by today’s system. After all, “Not all of us like to tell traditional stories that talk about everyday situations,” he said.
And there’s nothing traditional or everyday about Camino al cementerio, which depicts an evil car that attacks seemingly innocent bystanders. In the final shot the two men face off against the car, but it’s never clear how it all ends. That seems to be the parting theme of the film: It hits us in the face with blood and guts alongside an absurd narrative, and leaves us to form our own conclusion.