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CANNES 2009 Critics’ Week / France-Ger

Huacho: Those left behind by modernity

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Huacho: Those left behind by modernity

Told from four different perspectives and set in the heart of a rural South America overtaken by modern life, Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ French/German/Chilean co-production Huacho [+see also:
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offered today’s Critics’ Week audience a subtle score and quasi-documentary sensibility.

"Sooner or later, we’ll all be happy. I’ll be freed from my shadow and my name". Read by a schoolmaster glimpsed in Huacho, these words seem to resonate in the debut feature by a director who chose to shoot near his native city of Chillán, in southern Chile. There, on a small farm in the middle of the countryside, lives or rather survives a family: an older couple, their daughter and their grandson.

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Lulled by the birdsong and cockerel’s call, the day breaks. The four protagonists sit down at the breakfast table and the electricity blows. The same day unfolds from the four characters’ successive points of view, through to the evening, the dinner which reunites them again, the return of the electricity supply and nightfall.

Starring non-professional actors, Huacho explores at a gentle pace and with the utmost realistic detail the predictable end of a rural way of life: the grandmother makes cheeses using traditional methods and tries to sell them by the roadside (but the price of milk has increased), while the grandfather fences in a plot of land (but his old age slows him down) and tells stories about the past to which the rest of the family doesn’t listen.

The daughter cooks in a hostel for foreign tourists and has to return a dress that she has only just bought in order to pay the electricity bill. As for the young, dapper schoolboy, he spends his school day in town unsuccessfully pleading with one of his fellow students to let him play on his Portable PlayStation.

Playing on the contrast between traditions and modernity (mobile telephones, TV, video game arcades, department stores), between the rustic and city atmospheres, whilst pointing out the significant impact of money on simple lives, Fernández Almendras offers viewers a debut feature whose unaffected style and truthful qualities (in particular the naturalness of the actors) gradually gain depth, as time seems to slip away.

Produced by France’s Charivari Films and Chile’s Jirafa Films, Huacho was co-produced by Arte France Cinéma and Germany’s Pandora. French distribution will be managed by Sophie Dulac, while international sales are being handled by Films Distribution.

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(Translated from French)

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