GoCritic! Interview: Felipe Ríos • Director of The Man of the Future
"A daughter who doesn't succeed in connecting with her father can serve as an example of how a society works"
- We chatted with the Chilean filmmaker in Karlovy Vary, where he premiered his intimate first feature
Chilean director Felipe Ríos premiered his debut feature, The Man of the Future, in the Competition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The film got a special jury mention at the event for actress Antonia Giesen's emotional turn in the main role - a daughter disconnected from her father in the cold Chilean wilderness. Ríos spoke to us about the personal nature of the project and the process of getting it done in the midst of the turbulent political climate in Latin America.
GoCritic!: You come from a background of advertising and visual arts. How was your creative process for this first fiction feature?
Felipe Ríos: I'm very connected to the world of visual arts. I've worked with many important Chilean artists and, despite the fact that I come from a film school background, I find a lot of inspiration in this world. I believe there's a huge freedom which inspires me a lot to work in any audiovisual form. For me, to make a feature film in Latin America is a very long process in the sense of finding funds. Possibly many other parts of the world go through the same thing, so I'm not saying as an excuse, but this process [for The Man of the Future] took four years. Therefore, once this film's cycle is done, I'd think a lot before making a second one. It just takes so many resources and so much energy that the theme and the story would have to be very sincere and have a lot of social urgency for me to dive into it. I have many ideas for fiction features, but for the moment, I would like to wait. Right now, I'm in the process of shooting a documentary about a group of Chilean artists. I believe that documentaries offer a freer path, in which one can shoot in a more relaxed way, with smaller crews, and remain able to find the story for the next fiction feature while doing it.
I was born in Brazil and I know Brazilian productions often struggle with financing and distribution. Within a Latin American perspective, how does it compare with the Chilean situation?
I know the [public] financing platforms in both Chile and Argentina, since my film was a co-production between the two countries, and I believe I was able to reach them just before they began to fall apart. Chile, Argentina and Brazil are in a serious funding crisis, not only in regards to film, but to culture in general. Their right-wing governments, headed respectively by Sebastián Piñera, Mauricio Macri and Jair Bolsonaro, are creating some sort of narrative or discourse in which culture becomes a waste of money and a form of idleness. This is directly related to the intent of destroying the history and the identity of our Latin American countries. This is a strategy that has always been used throughout history. For example, when there's a coup d'état, the first preoccupation of the new government is to destroy all the culture and to erase history, so a new beginning - an allegedly better one - can take place. I believe this is happening now, especially in Chile and Argentina, but also in Brazil. Though I know less about the Brazilian situation, I know it's grave.
You mentioned that social urgency is important to you when developing a story. What's the social urgency of The Man of the Future?
I don't believe that this film is very driven by a social urgency. Instead, it comes from a very intimate place. I always thought that my first feature should about getting to know myself and entering my own emotions. I do see clear social urgencies in Latin America at the moment. I think that what's happening in regards to gender identity, to the indigenous people, to the influence of foreign countries in our continent are very urgent and I believe that cinema must discuss these themes. The documentary that I'm shooting revolves around an art collective in the 1980s, during the Chilean dictatorship. Despite the fact that nearly 40 years have gone by, I wanted to ask these characters, who were guerilla fighters, how was the Chile they lived in and why they fought. When I did, I realised that present-day Chile seems to be erasing its own history and we start again to feel very oppressed. This is what I'm working on.
What is it that you discovered about yourself while making this film?
I discovered many things about my relationship with my father. I also found out that our past is very important and this also applies to a whole country's past and history. A daughter that doesn't have a father, that doesn't succeed in connecting with her father, also can serve as an example of how a society works. In Chile's case, for instance, many people refuse to believe that the dictatorship killed a lot of people. In the history books used in school, they call it "military government", not "coup d’état". This let us see that there's a conflict between generations and, until they manage to solve it, it will be very difficult to move on and grow.
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