Interview: Chile’s Valdivia International Film Festival winner

Dominga Sotomayor, director of FICV International Film Award winner, De Jueves a Domingo, on her journey from spectator to star of the Valdivia Film Festival.

On Saturday, October 6, ThisisChile sat down with director Dominga
Sotomayor to discuss her film “De Jueves a Domingo” (Thursday till
Sunday), a day before it won the international film award at the 19th Valdivia International Film Festival. The following excerpts are from
that conversation.

ThisisChile: De Jueves a Domingo takes place over a four-day family road trip through Chile. Can you tell us about the journey, and its significance for you?

Dominga Sotomayor: “As Chile is so narrow, there are only two options – or there were only two options when we were children – to travel South, or to travel North, and rather than go to a certain place, it was more: “let’s head North. . .” I like the idea of travel for its own sake. More than there being a specific place where they are heading, it’s about the life of the journey.

We shot the film from Santiago to Punta de Choros, which is in the IV Region of Chile, close to Copiapó, more or less where the desert begins. I didn’t want to go further because the idea was for it to be a real trip, more or less real, of four days. So they couldn’t make it to the Atacama, or somewhere like that.

I wanted to shoot this film in the North, it was always the idea to film it there, because of the arid relationship between the couple, and the connection between what is happening to them internally, and the inhospitable, isolated atmosphere. I wanted to have landscapes that reflected this solitude, that spoke to the emotions of this couple, and the distance between them. Santiago is much greener, but soon the landscape becomes dryer and loses its color. By the end, the couple’s relationship reflects the color of their surroundings.”

TiC: The film has been well received abroad and won a number of international prizes. Can talk about what makes this film work for an international audience of this film, and of its Chilean identity?

D.S: “I don’t think about making films with universal themes. I think that all you can do is make a film about things that are close to you. This film is full of observations that I have made, of small details that are very significant to me, that are important to me now. . . and I think that people relate to this.

So in terms of its setting, the film is very local, but at the same time the space it occupies – the confines of a car – is something that can be applied anywhere. It is the journey through a desert, which could be any desert, or really any highway in the world.

There are some aspects that are very Chilean, for example in the way the characters communicate; the way they speak and also in their silences, in the things they don’t speak about. But children all over the world go on vacations with their parents, so although this family travels through landscapes that may be foreign, it’s something that people can relate to their own childhood.”

TiC: What is the relationship between personal experience and fiction in this film?

D.S: “The idea for this film came from some photos I found of a childhood trip. One photo in particular was of my cousin and I on top of the roof of a car, which struck me as really outrageous, we looked really happy up there, but at the same time it was very dangerous. I like to think of these two journeys as parallel, because they are not the same journey. . .

This film works with some images from my life, but beyond that, fiction occupies all the spaces that I don’t remember or where it is more potent. Writing this film was a long process, and things occurred to me along the way, so that now I don’t know clearly which parts are fiction and which were real . . . it’s a mix between fiction and memory.”

TiC: What is your opinion on the state of modern Chilean cinema?

D.S: “I think over the last few years Chile has developed an audio visual fund. . . aimed  above all in film production. Also now there is the possibility to do digital projects. There are so many options now that anybody who wants to make a film can.

Chilean cinema has grown so much over ten years, there’s more variety and what is happening is very interesting, and when there are so many more films, there will also be more quality films. I think that Chilean cinema continues to be extremely varied, as opposed to other countries which can be defined as having a certain style, like Argentina, Greek or Romanian cinema, Chilean cinema has still not gone down this path. But I think this is also a good thing. It’s as if there was an explosion of personal styles and ideas that has not yet taken a single direction.”

TiC: How has your experience been at the Valdivia International Film Festival? Is this your first time here?

D.S: “No I’ve come to the festival many times, first as a spectator at the age of 15 and 16, and afterwards with a short film, so I’ve seen it growing over the years. Last year I wasn’t here, but I’ve screened all of my short films here. . . and later, I was judge of short films.

AustraLab [Valdivia’s movie development and production institute] helped with my projects as well during their development, so I have a long history with Valdivia. I’m really happy to be showing my film here, and very happy that both of the screenings were full. It is also the first time the film has been screened in Chile. . . we had to wait a while, it opened in January internationally, but this was the festival in which we wanted to launch it in Chile.”

By Joe Hinchliffe