Six years ago, at the Popular Film School founded by Chilean filmmakers Carolina Adriazola and José Luis Sepúlveda, the short was filmed Transhumant. Through the story of a young woman, the audiovisual piece talks about the phenomenon of evasion in Transantiago, that is, of people who use public transport in the Chilean capital without paying the ticket. About a third of passengers do so, according to some estimates. In October 2019, it was precisely the massive evasions of high school students in the Metro, in protest at the increase in the price of the ticket, which pushed the social outbreak of October 18, which marks the first anniversary this Sunday. They were massive and violent revolts that ended up putting the institutionality on the ropes, which offered citizens the possibility of changing the Constitution in force since 1980 through a plebiscite, to be held next Sunday 25.
“The pressure cooker in Chile has not yet exploded,” says Sepúlveda, in a virtual conversation. “The crushing of the majority part of society, which is not part of the dominant groups, has accumulated for a long time,” says the filmmaker, who lists: pensions, health and public education weakened, debts, unworthy salaries. For Adriazola, the violence that took place in the streets between October and November of last year was the way of saying: “Here we are.” “We have been violated for so long that the way to react had to be violent.” According to Sepúlveda, “it was not violence, but self-defense.” . “In addition, destruction does not always entail something negative: if this country falls apart – and I hope it falls – it is to build something better.”
The work of the duo seems premonitory, probably because for years they have managed to collect visually and almost physically the stories and complexities of the popular world of the Chilean capital, without the cartoons of the soap operas or the morning TV shows. The part of the city that is not seen from the affluent communes of the eastern zone of Santiago de Chile, where services and the modern city, green areas and great monuments are concentrated. Since The Pejesapo (2007), who did not need the classic distribution circuits to pass from hand to hand and achieve the recognition of notorious critics, the couple has addressed in their tapes police abuses, the influence of the evangelical world in the city’s neighborhoods, pensions, the precariousness of the world of work and social housing in towns such as Bajos de Mena, where his latest film is filmed, Harley queen (2019).
It is a shocking story: the life of a young woman, Carola, who loses two of her young children in a fire. A real event, which happened in his tiny apartment, whose bars and barred windows – like most of the blocks in poor areas of the city – prevented the firefighters from rescuing them. But it also talks about the feminist movement, the unsuccessful struggle to open up spaces, the world of work, overcrowding, alcohol, childhood deprived, animal abuse and the influence of a Nazi ideology on the populations, among dozens of other issues. central.
Adriazola and Sepúlveda portray this world not as circumstantial guests, but because the couple and their family live in a town in Puente Alto, a popular municipality in the south of the capital – the largest in the city – and one of the most active in the protests that started in October 2019. The 16-year-old teenager lives in this commune of a right-wing mayor who two weeks ago fell into the Mapocho River in the middle of a protest, after a police officer pushed him, according to the Prosecutor’s Office that formalized the in uniform for attempted murder. “One has always been in this context. It is not something exotic. It is part of one’s life. I was born in a town and always with my family we have been exposed to lack of dignity. Our films have been linked to what we live, ”explains Sepúlveda. For Adriazola, “the stories have appeared in front of us, we are not looking for them.”
They are considered a popular organization. In 2007 they founded the Social and Antisocial Film Festival, which has 24 versions with different artistic expressions on the street. Then, in 2011, the Popular Film School started, offering free classes to encourage production. Residents, students, the unemployed and, in general, ordinary people who make their own films participate. “What results has a lot of humor and sympathy, it’s not all gloomy,” says Sepúlveda, who expands on the importance of social groups that have a presence in different parts of the city, such as his school. It is the fabric that, as he explains, has been reconstituted independently of the authorities, the State and other formal organizations and that only with the October 2019 uprising has been seen by those who make decisions.
“The grassroots social organization has built a whole world separate from the Chilean intelligentsia. Both from universities and other types of organizations, such as unions and political parties. The Communist Party, for example, left the towns a while ago, except in Recoleta [con alcalde comunista, Daniel Jadue]. It is as if we live in different dimensions of the same country ”, says the filmmaker.
In the peak weeks of the social outbreak, his group organized an activity called Screenshots at the barricade. An open microphone and an open-air projector in the middle of a popular area of Santiago for the residents to show the images captured in the riots. There was a kind of catharsis for people who never appear anywhere.
The duo does not understand that it is extremely complex for everyone –including the media– to understand the functioning of the population, where a thousand worlds coexist among neighbors, including members of the soccer and drug gangs. It was all the diversity of people who took to the streets in the 2019 riots, according to the filmmakers. “We think that the subway was destroyed for symbolizing the road and vehicular connection to jobs with miserable salaries,” says Sepúlveda. In the short Let them bark (2017), from the Popular Film School, show the monthly payment of the postman who had entered the state company in 1991: the equivalent of $ 147 in wages.
They are cautiously observing the process that Chile is carrying out: that of the plebiscite next Sunday, October 25. Adriazola points out that there is hope among the people: “It is symbolic for everyone that the Pinochet Constitution dies.” But they warn, at the same time, a lot of distrust, because in one year nothing has changed in substance: “The uprising in Chile was not for a new Constitution. That was the invention of the leaders of political parties who got together in Congress to rub their backs. Because in a new Constitution, are the big economic groups going to give in? ”Sepúlveda wonders, before his computer’s battery runs out.