When I realize the Valdivia Film Festival has celebrated 25 editions already, I feel like those old men that, when I was a kid, could not refrain from expressing their surprise every time we met: Oh my god, how big is this boy! When is this child going to stop growing?
As a Valdivian and a filmmaker, my memories and ties to FICValdivia go beyond the confines of the festival, intersecting with life itself, and with cinema in general. Thus, the Cervantes Theater for example, is at the same time the first movie house I remember going to, in my life, and the place where my short film El Tesoro de los Caracoles screened, during the Opening Ceremony at FICValdivia 2004, something akin to an intense debut, for me and several other folks with whom we made that Valdivian production, starring Roberto Farías.
While I write this, I can see Lucy Berkhof standing, peeking from the curtain at the entrance to the Cine Club, at people choosing their seats. This vision precedes the festival, in the early 90s or late 80s, if memory serves me right. I can see a teenage version of myself, seating at the cinema along with Lucy’s daughter, in a dangerous friendship that carried with it the privilege of being able to attend the movies without paying the ticket.
When the festival kicked off in 1994, none of the attendees suspected in the slightest the size of what was beginning. I had never in my life been at a film festival, and it’s hard for me to separate the screenings at that cinema, video and ecology event, from other shows at other moments during that time. Years later, I lent the festival the poster I saved from that first edition, so they could keep a copy in their archives. I think it was around the 15th edition, when Bruno Bettati, producer of my films and of FICValdivia, saw it hanging in my house, and realized it was the only surviving print whose whereabouts were known.
I remember sitting with Malú Gatica in 1996, congratulating her, after a short film she acted on received an award. During that same edition, I remember Andrés Waissbluth presenting his short film, with a few long strands of hair flapping in the wind, in a 1990s hairstyle. Alicia Scherson won’t stop laughing, as she presents a fake documentary about a gamecock. And of course, Sebastián Lelio receives an award.
As I became a filmmaker, FICValdivia was the place where, for a week, my city, my childhood friends, my parents’ friends, mingled with my colleagues from the world of cinema. I could run into my mother with her friends, all with pisco sours in their hands, surrounding Héctor Noguera at the Opening cocktail. Or, as it happened during a screening of Sebastián Brahm’s Vida Sexual de las Plantas, where I had a minor role, to listen to and recognize the laughter of my high school classmates, every time I came onscreen.
I think all of us who were there remember the effervescence of the festival in 2005, with the convergence of the films Play, La Sagrada Familia, En la Cama, and Se Arrienda. Those films blazed new territory in Chilean cinema, and they were the only topic of conversation at parties, cafés, and waiting for the next show time. The fact that Andrés Valdivia, the musician in Se Arrienda, ended in the waters of the Calle Calle, coming out of the La Sagrada Familia party, is maybe a sign of the ritual that was taking place. It was a sort of foreshadowing of what came later, and which was christened the New Chilean Cinema, in a book that was published by the festival.
Probably, the cycle that began in 2005 finished already, which is great. If the meeting point for all the guests at those initial editions were the massive breakfasts at the Pedro de Valdivia Hotel, nowadays, it is the pilgrimages to La Última Frontera, after the shows let out. After life’s comings and goings, none of my relatives remain in Valdivia. In fact, I won’t be able to attend this 25-year celebration, and have barely shown up at the festival in the last 5 years.
New waves of local filmmakers and new currents – to use a fluvial metaphor – will surely come, and probably, it will be at FICValdivia where we will discover them. Others will be the new filmmakers that will walk, full of illusions, through the gardens in the university, or who will take cover from the rain at a bar, not able to stop thinking about the movie they just saw. At a time of few certainties, I trust in the new generations in Chilean cinema, and their ability to surprise us. I am convinced that our best motion pictures are yet to come.