Claudia Huaiquimilla - Mis Hermanos: "Platforms impose pornographic standards."

Claudia Huaiquimilla – Mis Hermanos: “Platforms impose pornographic standards.”

The young 37-year-old Chilean filmmaker makes a prison film with Mis Hermanos and explores the plight of her country's youth. Interview.

“« The following story is inspired by true events.“, say in substance the first words of the film. Yet nothing in the image seems to promise anything other than a form of appeasement detached from a devastated reality. Two young boys, who we do not yet know are brothers, talking about football on a patch of grass. There is lightness and smiles in the air before the camera in a slow backward movement reveals a high surrounding wall returning the two beings to their condition of detainees. Mis Hermanosmy brothers” in vf, is inspired by a tragic mutiny that occurred in 2007 in one of the many juvenile detention centers in Chile. The conditions in these prisons are particularly harsh. In addition to the violence that reigns there, the isolation of these adolescents make them invisible in the eyes of society. Met in Paris, the young 37-year-old Chilean director Claudia Huaiquimilla evokes the reality behind this feature film discovered at the Locarno Festival in 2021.

Although the scenario is inspired by a tragedy that occurred in 2007, your feature film is not set in the past, however recent…

Claudia Huaiquimilla: If the tragedy of 2007 indeed served as a starting point, the scenario was built on the basis of testimonies collected over nearly ten years of investigation with young prisoners held in detention centers for minors. What emerges is the absence of notable changes in their condition in more than a decade. Through these stories, it is not so much a question of the fate of a few prisoners but of all Chilean youth as a whole. Young people confronted with institutional violence which prevents them from expressing themselves, from developing, from considering the future.

Most of the Chilean films visible in major international festivals take the years of Pinochet's dictatorship as their context. From then on, the contemporary is obscured… Do you have this same perception?

It's true and things are changing. Chilean youth are not aware of the direct consequences of the years of dictatorship in today's society. However, certain political and economic decisions result from it. We only have to look at our constitution which remains linked to these dark years… The mourning of this dark period has simply not been done, wounds remain open. We can hope that the new generations will demand accountability, make the silences speak. The demonstrations that engulfed Chile from 2019 are the beginnings of this awakening. We feel that the current system is running out of steam. Despite these dynamics, a visceral fear blocks things. It is very frustrating. We, artists, have a role to play. We must give voice to those who cannot be heard.

The end of the film assumes its tragic part and seems to destroy any hope of revolt. Isn't that contradictory?

Tragic without being chaotic. It was necessary to show that the uprising was not the work of unbalanced young people but of human beings who were just demanding respect. Their actions are meaningful. It is a cry for help, they are ready to give their lives for the outside world to hear them. My intention was to perpetuate the memory of these teenagers who died in 2007. The memorial which adjoins the wall of the prison where this tragedy took place sees their faces in the photos gradually disappearing. My film brings reality back to these boys. Without memory, nothing can be repaired.

How was the film received in Chile?

Mis Hermanos was released in 2021 as soon as theaters were able to reopen after the pandemic. Chileans had to be able to see it at all costs before the opening of the debates around the reform of the constitution. In these debates, children's rights were directly discussed. My film freed speech. Many spectators expressed themselves, shared their experience… The idea with this film was also to represent on screen members of the working classes who are very little represented in our cinema. I give these young heroes their dignity, it's not just statistics. Making cinema in Chile is a privilege. Few people can afford training. This is why the majority of filmmakers come from the highest social classes of society. Their films most often offer an overlooking look at the poorest. Fortunately, a new wind is blowing. See recent The settlers by Felipe Gálvez Heberle or Chile 1976 by Manuela Martelli. They certainly evoke the past but with an acute awareness of the present and take into account the diversity of our population…

To which stratum of society do you belong?

I am not part of the ruling class. What's more, I come from an indigenous community, the Mapuche, which adds a layer to this class racism that I was talking about. Fortunately, I was able to benefit from a student loan and thus access suitable training. This system allowed for a diversity of points of view. If these loans are virtuous, their repayments are difficult to bear and many students spend their lives trying to honor them. In Chile, education is not a right, it is a market. One of the demands of the 2019 demonstrations was precisely to alleviate these debts which literally chain the most deprived.

Mis Hermanos fits into a specific genre, the prison film. Were there any pitfalls to overcome?

The first objective was to avoid all references to these films which abound in Latin America full of clichés, perpetuating a miserable vision of society. I saw my film more as a coming of age movie. Yes, there is confinement but that's just a context, not the subject of the film. Starting my film with a tight shot of two ordinary teenagers talking was precisely a way of placing the individual at the center. The camera can then widen the frame and reveal their situation as prisoners. I constantly worked on the opposition between the coldness of the place and the warmth of the relationships between individuals.

So your staging was partly constructed in opposition to clichés?

The platforms have created standards capitalizing on the suffering of the working classes, bordering on pornography. In Latin America it is particularly visible with the way drug trafficking is told in a pop and sexy way obscuring the reality, its ravages among young people. I register overhang. I prefer to refer to the Dardenne cinema, for example, which focuses precisely on humans. Everything about them starts from intimacy, it is through it that the complexity of the world can emerge. We can then open our eyes to what surrounds us. In Latin America, there are more and more women directors who share this reading of things. It's good for the future. There is so much pain to repair.

Mis Hermanos. By Claudia Huaiquimilla. With : Ivan Cáceres, Cesar Herrera, Paulina Garcia… Duration: 1h25. In theaters

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