Chilean Cinema #27 – El verano de los peces voladores (2013)

The Summer of the Flying Fish

(Chile, France 2013 95m) Vimeo

p Bruno Bettati, Tom Dercourt, Sophie Erbs, Augusto Matte d Marcela Said w Marcela Said, Julio Rojas ed Jean de Certeau c Inti Briones s Alexander Zekke, Eduardo Henríquez, Caroline Chaspoul

a Gregory Cohen, Francisca Walker, Roberto Cayuqueo, Bastián Bodenhöffer, Guillermo Lorca, Paola Lattus, Emilia Lara, María Izquierdo, Carlos Cayuqueo,

This review originally appeared at Twitchfilm.com

The year 2013 was a special one for Chilean cinema, I talked about it in my list of the best Chilean movies of 2013 that I posted here on Twitch.

One of the main reasons was the amount of films from my country that ended up in Cannes, and all of them receiving from average-to-great reviews. One of the films, and the one who received the most glowing reviews of them all (alongside Jodorowsky’s latest) was The Summer of the Flying Fish (El Verano de los Peces Voladores), about a 16 year old girl on vacation with his wealthy father in the south of Chile, near the indigenous population, the Mapuche.

What seems to be, in the beginning, a peaceful retreat from the capital city, slowly turns into a suspenseful build up of the centuries old conflict between the Chilean settlers that have come to put houses in between what is considered holy land for the Mapuche community, and Manena (our protagonist, played by Francisca Walker, who does NOT look 16) seems to be the only one that is noticing that something is going on.

Last week I reviewed another Chilean film, Root, and I mentioned how the landscape was the protagonist most of the time, and here something similar happens, and sadly, they are similar if not the same landscapes being filmed: the deep forests, the grey skies, the banks of fog slowly drifting from the mountains, through the roads, etc. The only difference here is that the cinematography is much better than in Root, so here’s your chance to have your scenery porn in high quality and definition.

The film tries to make a conflict out of moments and events that would be meaningless otherwise, if appealing at the same time when they happen. The father of Manena, owns a lake among the other elements inside the big settlement that he has, and there he is constantly trying to fish out, kill or find a way to make the carp that inhabit there disappear, for whatever reason he has. The most impressive moment is when he uses dynamite to blow the fish out of the water.

Marcela Said, the director of this film, comes from a documentary film-making background, where the subjects appeal and at the same time do and say outrageous things, here the characters, while based on archetypes (or even using non-actors to appeal to the same reality that they live), never come alive in a way that it’s interesting, as they never truly seem to engage in the battle that she tries to put forward through plot and other references.

The fact that the history of the Mapuche people as a violent community that defends their land is put there, but the characters while knowing this, never seem to do anything about it happening, and while there’s a employee of sorts of the house where Manena lives that might or might not be involved in some of the burnings and protests that the Mapuche are doing in the surroundings of the lands that Manena’s father owns, it’s never transcendent.

The film is being released with a bunch of press and great deal of talk about how this film might be the first one that tackles the Mapuche conflict, that dates back to the conquest of Chile in the 16th Century. But, sadly, it barely touches the surface, it decides that it wants to tell about the feelings of Manena and how she might fall or not in love with a Mapuche that might be destroying her own father’s land.

It’s a bit cliched, like a Romeo and Juliet, but without any of the passion, without any of the bloody conflict or anything else. That doesn’t mean that the movie is bad, but it just doesn’t do what it promises. If it’s seen as a movie about a woman that spends her summer bored while a lot of crazy stuff happens outside and she doesn’t engage nor help her father, it’s a good, yet slow and at times boring movie, that manages to get some good performances from the actors and non-actors alike.

7/10

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