Magallanes: The past will always come back to haunt you
by Alfonso Rivera
- The debut film by Salvador del Solar is a production between Spain, Peru, Colombia and Argentina, which reopens social and personal wounds that have not yet fully healed
After the boost to its development provided by the Films in Progress 26 Award at the 2014 San Sebastián Film Festival, Magallanes [+see also:
film profile] is finally being released in Spain (courtesy of Vercine): the directorial feature debut by actor Salvador del Solar is a co-production between Peru, Colombia, Argentina and Spanish outfit Nephilim Producciones. Its resulting magnificence has enabled it to end up as a finalist in the Best Latin American Film category at the latest editions of the Goya and Forqué Awards, as well as garnering five nominations at the third edition of the Platino Awards, and raking in prizes at festivals in Huelva, Havana and Lleida. It was also screened at Miami and Toronto.
Its plot introduces us to the titular Magallanes (played by Mexican actor Damián Alcázar), a taxi driver in Lima who one day picks up a woman (Peruvian actress Magaly Solier, widely acclaimed for her performances in films such as Madeinusa, The Milk of Sorrow [+see also:
film profile] and Amador [+see also:
film profile]) in the street after she flags him down. When the man looks at the girl in his rear-view mirror, he recognises her: she used to be the sex slave of his senior officer (Argentinian actor Federico Luppi, who is as superb as ever) while he was in the army, fighting against the Shining Path. This event reopens his badly healed wounds, and through his desire to redeem himself by helping and protecting the girl, the antihero of this story – furious with himself for what he did years ago – will eventually get caught up in a mess that gets totally out of hand.
Salvador del Solar has made a socio-political film in the guise of a lively thriller, where the viewer bears witness to the shady deals, lies and corruption of its complex, traumatised and contradictory characters. The protagonist’s feeling of guilt weighs down so heavily upon him that it ends up adversely permeating all of his – apparently – noble actions as he is dragged along by a force beyond his control. As he seeks atonement, this same force will cause him to turn into something akin to a kamikaze pilot.
The director-screenwriter (the plot is based on La pasajera – lit. “The Passenger” – a short novel by Peruvian writer Alonso Cueto) imbues the situations in Magallanes with a very truthful energy: the truth of a society that has still not recovered from its unmentionable past, which is something that happens not only in South America, but also in countries all over the world. When the main character asks the girl to shave off his thick beard, he is trying to expose his sins while bringing to light the way he actually is: fragile and exhausted, but ready and willing to turn a new page that will free him from the crushing burden of his responsibility. But the strictly righteous path he chooses will require more than just good will if he wants to walk it right to the end.
Magallanes thus sets itself up as a respectable action film tinged with pain and misfortune, which represents a top-scoring feature debut by a man of film who proves to have a knack for narrative and a great sense of pace. He is able to inject universal ingredients into his intriguing screenplay, such as the burden of (both individual and collective) guilt, the impossibility of reconciliation and the depiction of a deeply damaged society.
(Translated from Spanish)