It is our honor and joy to conclude the first year of the Thursday’s of Chilean Cinema program with a two-week retrospective dedicated to one of the most prolific, award-winning and dynamic directors of our national cinema, an auteur who has become an icon of Latin American cinema. In 2018 he was the first Chilean director to win an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category thanks to his transcendent film A Fantastic Woman, one of the highest grossing national films of the decade. We are talking about, of course, the one and only talented Sebastián Lelio and we are excited to be able to show his second film Christmas and share again a short film that marked the beginning of his career, Carga Vital.
Premiering at the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes in 2009, Christmas is a film that constantly plays with the viewer's expectations, with what is told and what remains silent, generating a permanent tension and intrigue. In the film, Aurora (Manuela Martelli) visits her late father's house with Alejandro (Diego Ruiz) to collect belongings that she wants to salvage before the property is sold. On Christmas Day, they discover that a 15-year-old girl (Alicia Luz Rodriguez) is living on the premises, lost and alone. Together they share all the troubles they carry with them, finding a slice of freedom during a long Christmas night.
Christmas showcases elements that become signature parts of Lelio's later filmography, where women lead the narrative force of his stories, intimate relationships are put under a microscope and effects of conservative societies are examined. Christmas is a film about belonging and liberation, created by a filmmaker who with generosity has led the consolidation of Chilean cinema on a worldwide platform.
The short film Carga vital caused an impact after its premiere at the Viña del Mar Festival in 2003, as it was a piece that differentiated itself from trends in Chilean cinema of the time. It signified a break in the convention of our cinema by abandoning the intellectual tone or themes linked to the military dictatorship, focusing instead on present events that seemed to be hidden in our society.
Actors Claudia Cabezas, Paulina Urrutia, and Alejandro Trejo embody a crude narrative inspired by true events, telling the story of Julia, a high school student who, out of fear of her parents, hides her pregnancy, resulting in experiences that range from moving to heartbreaking.
Lelio’s career includes other successful feature films such as The Sacred Family (2009), which obtained the award for Best Fiction Film at the Toulouse Film Festival; Gloria (2013), recognized with the Silver Bear for Best Actress for Paulina García (protagonist) at the Berlin International Film Festival; and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for A Fantastic Woman (2017), among other recognitions. In addition to the above is his international career, with titles like Disobedience and the North American remake of Gloria entitled Gloria Bell, starring Julianne Moore.