Resonant Mapuche Identity Doc ‘La Búsqueda Del Otro’ Readied by Sanfic Alums Pejeperro Films

Chilean filmmaker Cons Gallardo Vásquez, whose 2017 debut “In Transit” was awarded at BioBío Cine and Sanfic, is readying their next project, “La Búsqueda Del Otro” (“Searching For the Other”), featured at  this week’s Sanfic Industria’s Works In Progress strand, one of the highest profile pix-in-post showcases in South America.

Produced by Esteban Sandoval Carrasco, executive director at Pejeperro Films (“Bajo Sospecha: Zokunentu”), the project gives a tender nod to personas who are half-realized and a human being with intricate layers seen only for those who look below the surface.

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With a healthy disdain toward the deluge of labels thrust upon anyone that veers from the straight and narrow, Gallardo Vásquez sets off in search of Machi Marcelina, a Mapuche elder and spiritual figure unjustly detained in a men’s prison after being accused of killing one of her patients. Stripped of her dignity, she returned to her community and retreated inward.

The first film to visualize the concept of ‘Weye,’ a term coined by colonizing forces that alludes to the homosexuality of a Mapuche figure, the project remarks on the explicitly persecutory nature of societal alienation and the profound importance of remaining vulnerable.

“There’s something very delicate about this project. There’s a Mapuche theme, and neither Cons nor I are Indigenous. We don’t know how to speak the language, we don’t live within their cosmovision and that made us unsure of how to tell this story,” Sandoval Carrasco told Variety. “The point of view and the way Cons approached it, we found it beautiful, universal, very sincere, and that called our attention to the project,” he added.

As the film begins, Gallardo Vásquez provides a brief yet vivid primer on Mapuche culture and  trepidatiously steps out of their comfort zone and into a divine set of days filled with rituals that mingle alongside rural life in the south of Chile.

Poetic and lyrical narration drifts over the shots as we delve into the culture alongside the director, whose humility and persistence allowed the community to drive the narrative and open up on their terms, with Machi Rosa taking on the role of scholar, paving a path into the community and, finally, toward Machi Marcelina.

“When I met Machi Marcelina, I realized that the film worked much better if I was in front of the horse. It was a difficult decision, assuming I would be a main character. At first, I had my motivation to know more about her, not only about what had happened to her before. I was going for one thing and discovered something much bigger, to see her as a human being, not everything that happened to her in the past; I care about her present as well,” remarked Gallardo Vásquez.

Certainly present was a keen ability to listen, portrayed in a scene from the cautious first moments of their encounter where it seemed they had to pry answers from Machi Marcelina’s lips, her reluctant and stoic gaze sizing them up. As the documentary progresses, we see the ease in their communication develop. An uncertain grin turns into a full-fledged smile for Machi Marcelina as she shares knowledge and instructs Gallardo Vásquez on how to warm a ceremonial drum over hot coals.

Esteban Sandoval Carrasco, Cons Gallardo Vásquez
Esteban Sandoval Carrasco, Cons Gallardo Vásquez

“I’ve been in a state of permanent self-discovery, and that’s difficult for me. Being on screen makes you available to be seen and judged. But, I think that in the end, if you’re not brave enough to do that, then why make films?” they relayed.

Through several iterations, Sandoval Carrasco noted that they owe a heightened perspective to editor Daniel Díaz who “understood the concept of taking time, a pause. Within their understanding and criticism as a Mapuche, they’ve managed to bring this concept to the montage. The cut has changed a lot in two months. This alignment between the ideas that Cons raises and the spirit of the editing, the planets are aligning to find the film’s identity.”

The title restores a certain faith in humanity by the time the credits roll. It’s an ambitious story that speaks to slowly coming together, forming pure relationships and reminding the world that no matter how boisterous the brutally ignorant few remain, there’s connection afoot, even amongst those from polar corners of a vast terrain.

“The stories that interest us incorporate themes we wish were obsolete. They’re projects that, in the future, we can look back on and say that now we’re a better society. This documentary has that,” stated Sandoval Carrasco. “It’s a sad story, an unfair story of misunderstanding. We feel that by making the film, we can collaborate in discussing it.”

Recently selected for the Valdivia Film Festival Primer Corte strand, the team aims for a 2024 release with Carrasco stating, “Our goal at Sanfic is to receive feedback, to know how well the film works.”

Previously, the project participated in IB Platform DocsMX 2019, Lab Cine Lebu in 2020 and the 2022 Latin American documentary film market Conecta, scooping consultancies with Everardo González (“Devil’s Freedom”), Paola Castillo (“Beyond My Grandfather Allende”) and Carolina Siraqyan (“The Mole Agent”).

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