Temporary Valparaíso: A short film with a long story

Late on a Wednesday night, crowds of Santiago’s cool kids jostle to get their spot in a cinema for an evening of local Chilean music. Many have travelled a couple of hours inland from Valparaíso, the colorful coastal city whose sights and sounds serve as the backdrop for a short film by renowned French filmmaker Vincent Moon.

Temporary Valparaíso

After coming to Chile for InEdit film festival in December of 2009, Vincent Moon – whose name is a pseudonym of a character in a Borges short story – was asked when he was returning to Paris. “I thought, well I don’t really live in Paris… I don’t really have a home. Maybe I’ll stay a little longer.”

The result was the birth of Temporary Valparaíso, a music documentary part of Moon’s “Film a Emporter” (Takeaway Show) series, and which is screening this particular Wednesday night. A short and informal speech is made and the credits roll to the sound of shouting and shushing from the audience. What follows is a timeless piece of cinema and music.

Moon’s trademark hand-shot array of skilfully mixed sounds and images thrash through the streets, alleys and bars of Valparaíso, flicking over the faces and hands of nine handpicked local artists, their friends and spectators. A whole community, it seems, emerges from the woodwork.

As they share their experiences and sing through the streets, using its railings and bin-lids for percussion, the film is spliced together with footage of the same streets, staircases and lifts from an old French tourist film of Valparaiso in the 50s, giving a glimpse of how things were back then, for the nonplussed onlookers.

Return to Valparaíso

Moon first visited Valparaíso nine years ago. He travelled from Buenos Aires down through the Patagonia and back up on the Chilean side of the border. He jumped on the boat from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, up through Santiago and then onto Valparaíso.

“It’s really one of my favourite places on earth … The spirit is jut amazing … It was a really intense moment at the time and I just wanted to get back … Since then had always had an idea to make a project there with a few local musicians.”

Getting back and finding the musicians wasn’t too hard. On the road, Moon ran in to Pablo Esquer, who had his own idea of how the film might turn out. “Sure, Valparaíso has its own ‘sound.’ It’s the buses, the trams, the funiculars, the drunk, the loud, the singers, the musicians. It’s all Valparaíso.”

Moon gathered some info and talked to a few people and then spent about a week getting everyone together and a week filming.

“It’s a really nice process. You arrive in a place not knowing much about it and basically just rush around. Usually after about a weekend you have a pretty good idea about what’s going on.”

Together, they capture the minute details of Valparaiso; its scorching heat; the clanking of the lifts as they shudder on rails up the steep banks of the city, the rhythm of the doors and the locals going about their daily chores.

“I’m not very good with words. I can only really express with the film. There’s something quite wild about it. I just had a great time when I was there, it’s all about the spirit, the spirit is really beautiful… I can’t really say much more, sorry.”

Esquer, Moon and editor Gates Bradley worked in their respective countries for months finalising the movie. It premiered to the packed cinema in Santiago on the 18th August, will play in Valparaíso today and will be showing in Concepción on the 28th August.

Moon: a modern day troubadour

In medieval France, people used to tell stories through music, travelling an telling stories of love and war, so their audiences could take them and pass them on to others.

For the past two years, Moon has been travelling the world, visiting new places and making films out of the people and places that inspire him.

The filmmaker’s approach to travel and money has defined both his work, and his day to day life.

“In an ideal world what I’m really trying to do is basically work without money and really live without money and see how far I can go with that. It’s not really about money; more about exchanging a film for a place to stay for the night.”

“I’m just really trying to visit people and say ‘hey, I’m in town, I make films, I’m screening films tonight, if you want to come that’s cool. If you have a place for me tonight, that’s great. If you can even like buy me a little dinner, that’d be wonderful.”

Thanks to the limitless realm of cyberspace, the films he produces really promote themselves. He gives a little warning before turning up. By the time he arrives everyone knows he’s coming and everyone wants to get involved.

Moon’s talent behind the camera and in edit the room has made him a aman on demand and to date, he has done films for some of the most respected bands such as Sigur Ros and Mogwai.

Days after

The Valparaiso film, having been screened around the country, will certainly have strengthened bonds and given each person who appeared in it a musical leg up. The energy the movie left played out as the doors of the cinema opened on to the real protagonists stamping out guitar tunes on benches splayed in intervals around the space outside.

All the musicians: Fernando Milagros, Gepe, Chinoy, Manuel García, Pascuala Ilabaca, Camila Moreno, Goli, Kaskivano, Ángelo Escobar are still basking in the hype created by the movie and play regularly in Santiago and Valparaíso.

The 50s French images used in the film have meant that Moon has been unable so far to upload the film in its entirety onto the net.

We just need to clear this and then I’ll be able to put it on creative commons like I do with all my work. You can find it in pretty high definition in Vimeo and then you can just screen it as you want. You don’t even have to tell me about it.

All that’s certain is that Vincent Moon is not planning to get rich any time soon.

I never make any money on my films. I don’t want to. At least if you don’t make money from it. You don’t need to do that. It’s great – people can just do what they want with it – there’s just no limit to it then.

His musical exploration of Latin America continues later this year with a visit to Brazil in November, then north to Suriname, Colombia in February and finally Cuba in March.

“For me, it’s just a great way to learn about the world,” he said, although couldn’t say how long he would continue his vagabond journey.

“For a long time. How big is the world?”

This post is also available in Spanish