I am From Chile
Distributed by Pragda, 302 Bedford Ave., #136, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Directed by Gonzalo Diaz Ugarte
DVD, color, 108 min. In Spanish with English subtitles
Immigrants, solidarity, coming of age
Reviewed by Elena Landry, George Mason Libraries, Fairfax, VA
Date Entered: 3/7/2017
Salvador, a twentyish Chilean, was apparently born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Since then, while his doting parents seem to have done nothing to introduce him to the world outside his sheltered existence, when they spring for an expensive English course and a trip to Europe, they ironically set him on the road to a sort of enlightenment. The ride soon gets bumpy when they announce that financial difficulties force them to cut off his allowance, but rather than heed their exhortations to come back home, he decides to try to do whatever he can to stay. With a bit of help from his friends, led by his aunt Maria, he succeeds.
Maria is an aging party girl with a heart of gold, beloved by her bohemian tenants and friends. Living in London since the Pinochet era, she does everything she can to help Salva assimilate. However, when her daughter’s rejection pushes her deeper into substance abuse, it becomes obvious that she needs help herself.
She gets it largely from the colorful assortment of her renters, including Ivan, a Russian drug dealer, Yoshiko, his Internet artist/pyromaniac Japanese girlfriend, and Nicolas, an NGO worker rarely home. Included is Nico’s neglected girlfriend Virginia, a barista and unlicensed subway performance artist. Rounding out the main characters is the film’s closest thing to a villain, the brutally demanding Armando.
Salvador never shows up for his English lessons, but picks the language up steadily, as a matter of necessity, getting quite an education in the process. The school of hard knocks has him cleaning toilets, buying a seriously overpriced stolen bicycle, wrecking a Mercedes on his first day working in a garage, getting beaten up, having his heart broken, his expensive camera taken away, and nearly killing his aunt.
Although none of the characters have much money, they are nothing if not resourceful, and look out for each other at every turn. Despite being unable to get work himself due to his confinement to the flat by a GPS ankle bracelet, Ivan manages to get Salva a job. Yoshiko gives him the inspiration for an award winning short film. Nico gets him a respite from Armando’s wrath by emptying his pockets to help with his debt. Virginia’s remorse over Nico and Salva lead her to somehow rescue the seemingly lost short film from the clutches of Armando. Salvador finally manages to do something right himself, by bringing about the reconciliation of Maria and her daughter. Throughout the film there is Maria, generous with her small supply of cash, and/or rent forgiveness, time, and the compassionate voice of many years of experience. While these people may be all far from their home countries, by the end of the film, it’s clear they are now with their family.
Paulina Garcia gives another great performance as Maria, and Diego Ruiz, who played Salvador, won special mention at the Festival Cine de Punta del Este. The film also won special mention at the Barranquilla Film Festival.