Chilean film-makers go international with big hits and US stars

A look at how the creative forces behind the country’s industry are breaking into the global market as several Chilean films make waves internationally.

Building on several big film festival successes and an Oscar nomination last year, Chilean film looks set take the international industry by storm in the near future. But why now? Many great films have come out of the country over recent years, so what is the impetus for this recent wave of success?

The simple answer could be that Chilean film is receiving greater attention thanks to the acclaim brought by a raft of high-profile critical successes coming out of the Andean nation in recent years.

In the last year alone, Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria showed at the Berlin International Film Festival picking up three awards while Pablo Larraín’s No was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Academy Awards in the United States.

According to North American publication Variety, though, a lot of the potential in Chilean film lies in a small group of directors working with their U.S. counterparts, attracting big name stars and often shooting in a mix of English and Spanish to target a wider audience.

An interesting example is Nicolás López and U.S. director and producer Eli Roth’s working partnership, dubbed “Chilewood.” The two worked together on recent earthquake thriller Aftershock which was set in Chile and featured a mix of Spanish and English.

Integral to the “Chilewood” concept is cost. The films work on the principle of micro budgeting, minimising costs to the extent that, even in the post-financial crisis film industry, directors need not be so reliant on huge box-office turnouts. Through a combination of improved technology and the lower costs of filming in Chile compared to the U.S., film-makers are able to do more with less says López.

Another example is Sebastián Silva who recently received the directing award for his Chile-set picture Crystal Fairy at the renowned Sundance festival. Another Silva film, Magic Magic, was also set in Chile, also featuring a mix of Spanish and English. In addition to a common director, both films star U.S. actor Michael Cera, (Superbad, Juno) drawing in fans and international audiences with a familiar and famous face.

A number of in-production films look set to continue this recent string of success. Chilean comedian Stefan Kramer — well known for the film Kramer Vs. Kramer, the highest grossing domestic film in the country’s history — is reportedly considering a fish-out-of-water comedy set in the U.S. for his next project.