Recent Chilean film school graduate Elisa Eliash swept the floor at Antofagasta’s International Film Festival (FICIANT) in November, taking home awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Audience Choice with Aquí Estoy, Aquí No (Here I Am, Not Here). Her second feature, the film is a side-splittingly comical and visually enthralling spectacle that bewitches its viewers.
An overweight journalist plays the film’s protagonist who has been commissioned to write the biography of the fictional and faded punk-rock star Ana Patricia Ahumada Jones. What begins as a straightforward narrative soon disintegrates into an amalgamation in the sequence of events. Truth mingles with fantasy and the two become inseparable by the time the film reaches one of its three alternative endings.
Despite this complexity, Eliash manages to play with all of these elements without ever dipping into the obscure or disengaging with her viewers. Her sharp wit and brazenly colored aesthetic make Aqui Estoy, Aqui No a pleasure to behold.
After Aqui Estoy, Aqui No’s success in Antofagasta, Eliash was invited to screen it at Cairo Film Festival in Egypt. Eliash talked with This is Chile about her thoughts on filmmaking, her personal, creative process, and what she has in store for the future.
This is Chile: You mentioned at one of your film screenings that you were not trying to innovate or invent with Aquí Estoy, Aquí No. Could you explain this?
Elisa Eliash: More than inventing or innovating I’m interested in personal accounts, because when something is personal it’s always original. That’s what I look for. In general, you realize that colleagues (other Chilean filmmakers) always have this idea that, “I make film because I like to tell stories.” The truth is that, for me, the story is just a vehicle. I’m interested more in the “how” rather than the “what.”
TiC: The narrative in Aquí Estoy Aquí No jumps back and forth in time without much warning, making for an entirely unpredictable viewing experience. How did you arrive at this style of time sequencing?
EE: I wrote this script in a very particular way that is not generally recommended. It’s the first time I’ve done this, and it was kind of an experiment to see what would happen.
I wrote the whole script in one month in script format from beginning to end, exactly in that order. . . . As I started writing it seemed interesting to try something instinctive and a little visceral that would end up even surprising myself in the writing process. . . . I began writing a scene and then all of a sudden I stopped and thought I have to write this, and this, and this, to arrive at that. But in truth I want to write about that, and I want to write about it now, it’s more interesting.
This disobedience was interesting to utilize, so I went directly to that scene that I wanted to write about. Then there was a breach in the causal actions and I had to explain the gap to the spectator, so some character asked him (the protagonist) “But what happened?” And sometimes even he didn’t remember. “How did I get here?” he asks himself. “Well I got here because”…. And he begins to recount the story.
TiC: After your success in November at FICIANT what future plans to you have in the works?
EE: The prize in Antofagasta and our selection here in Egypt have all of us excited. The film is being viewed and it’s causing an impact, which is why we created it. . . .We are waiting for more festivals and gearing up for the commercial premiere in Chile around March 2013, with open-air functions followed by parties, so as to remind us about how festive film can be. (We want) to make it a memorable experience.
Written by Gwynne Hogan