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February 22 – February 25, 2019

In a Landscape. The Films of Dominga Sotomayor

Dominga Sotomayor (b. 1985) is a Chilean filmmaker celebrated for her impressive cycle of carefully understated films focused upon characters passing through liminal transitional zones and moving toward revelations that come when and where they are least expected. Across three feature films and numerous shorter works, Sotomayor has refined a patiently observational and quietly personal mode of narrative cinema that uses its stories of becoming to meditate, in subtle yet profound ways, upon larger themes of family, identity and the ideological undercurrents shaping them. Sotomayor’s debut film Thursday Till Sunday immediately revealed the nuanced tone and style that give deeper meaning and emotional resonance to her films. An intimate portrait of a family of four on an extended road trip, Thursday Till Sunday often seems to unfold in real time as it captures the drift and mindscapes of its characters while gradually disclosing their different investments in the journey.

Sotomayor’s feature films are each, in essence, family portraits, although ones that focus less upon individual members than the unspoken emotions and tensions that hover between parents and children. Frequently questioning familiar tropes of the so-called “coming of age” genre, Sotomayor’s films give equal presence to the adults as the children—even at times seeming to invert their roles. An autobiographical thread further distinguishes Sotomayor’s films through their gently pointed scrutiny of the utopian ideals of hippiedom she knew from her childhood spent within an off-the-grid ecological community outside Santiago. Taking place in a ramshackle artist commune directly modeled on her childhood home, Sotomayor’s latest film Too Late to Die Young expands her canvas to the larger family formed by the tight community. With its forest setting, Too Late to Die Young also makes powerfully explicit the fascination with nature shared by all of Sotomayor’s films, which together explore landscape not as a background but as an expressive force in dialogue with the emotional lives of her characters. – Haden Guest

The Harvard Film Archive welcomes Dominga Sotomayor as a 2018-19 Baby Jane Holzer Visiting Artist in Film.

Special thanks: Robin Kelsey, Dean of Arts and Humanities; Lucien Castaing-Taylor—Film Study Center and Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard; Paola Ibarra Deschamps, Marcela Ramos—David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard.


Friday February 22 at 7pm

Mar

Directed by Dominga Sotomayor. With Lisandro Rodríguez, Vanina Montes, Andrea Strenitz
Argentina/Chile 2014, DCP, color, 58 min. Spanish with English subtitles

For her second feature, Sotomayor reached for a looser, improvisational structure and style, collaborating with her small cast and crew on an open script that was collectively written day by day on location and that incorporated chance events as they unfolded around them. As in Thursday Till Sunday, a road trip launches Mar, this time with a young and awkwardly attached couple traveling to a family vacation house in an Argentine resort town. The arrival of the man’s rowdy mother further destabilizes the couple and raises the stakes of their vacation and big decisions they keep avoiding. Maintaining a markedly distanced camera and perspective, Sotomayor’s restrained film carefully observes the dynamic at work in the relationships between mother and son and between the couple, capturing both their barely expressed affection and the flashes of unvarnished raw emotion that punctuate their tense time together. DCP courtesy CINESTACIóN.

Preceded by

Los Barcos

Directed by Dominga Sotomayor. With Francisca Castillo, João Canijo, Carloto Cotta
Portugal/Chile 2016, DCP, color 20 min. Spanish with English subtitles

A short episode for the collective film Here in Lisboa, Los Barcos stars veteran Chilean film and television star, and mother of Sotomayor, Francisca Castillo as an actress invited to present a film at an unnamed Lisbon festival. Freed from obligations after her screening, Castillo drifts across the Tagus River in search of an old friend. Sotomayor’s gentle film is an affectionate collaboration with her mother sparked by hints of deadpan humor that recall the work of Aki Kaurismäki. DCP courtesy Portugal Film.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Dominga Sotomayor in Person

Sunday February 24 at 7pm

Thursday Till Sunday
(De Jueves a Domingo)

Directed by Dominga Sotomayor. With Santi Ahumada, Emiliano Freifeld, Paola Giannini
Chile/The Netherlands 2012, digital video, color, 94 min. Spanish with English subtitles

Sotomayor’s celebrated debut feature follows a young family on a road trip, of which the final destination remains ambiguous. Told largely from the point of view of ten-year-old Lucia as she observes the world unfolding before her and intuits her parents’ fraying relationship, Thursday Till Sunday avoids over-narrativization by focusing upon those in-between spaces and non-events noticed by the young girl. Aligning the camera with the precocious child, Sotomayor and cinematographer Bárbara Álvarez set much of the film within the family’s aging station wagon, inventing angles to explore the automobile’s interior and different perspectives to the outside world, all the while still retaining the film’s naturalistic tone and feeling. Thursday Till Sunday explores innocence as a way of being in the world and not a judgment, revealing both adults and children to be searching for understanding and affirmative relationships. The evocative landscape that unfolds as the family drives North towards the desert plays an important role in expressing the unstated and, to Lucia, not fully known emotions as they slowly emerge.

Preceded by

Videogame (Videojuego)

Directed by Dominga Sotomayor. With Cristián Mora, Queralt Albinyana, Oriol Ruiz
Chile/Spain 2009, digital video, color, 6 min. Spanish with English subtitles

 

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Dominga Sotomayor in Person

Monday February 25 at 7pm

Too Late to Die Young
(Tarde Para Morir Joven)

Directed by Dominga Sotomayor. With Demian Hernández, Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro
Chile/Brazil/Argentina/The Netherlands/Qatar 2018, DCP, color 110 min. Spanish with English subtitles

Sotomayor’s most ambitious film to date also draws most deeply from her own life to offer a kind of refracted portrait of tentative youth and of Chile in the early 1990s as it emerged out of the long, dark shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship. Too Late to Die Young takes place in a melancholy hippie commune inspired by the ecological community where Sotomayor grew up, lovingly recreated in the same location in the forested Santiago foothills. Sotomayor carefully structures the film as an ensemble piece that interweaves different generationally focused stories of the commune’s inhabitants while also closely following the figure of an uncertain yet determined young woman, Sofia, played by the talented first-time actress Demian Hernández. The open walls of an unfinished house in the community emblematize some of the film’s most important themes: evoking both the promise and indeterminacy of the community, its close, and even dangerous, proximity to nature and the fluid boundaries between childhood and adulthood. A gently unfolding series of events and non-events give Too Late to Die Young a wonderfully rambling and spontaneous feel as it turns from children’s games to fragmentary conversations to an approaching New Year’s group concert that subtly reveals the performative dimensions of the roles played by the community’s elders and youth alike. DCP courtesy KimStim.

Preceded by

La montaña

Directed by Dominga Sotomayor
Chile 2008, digital video, color, 10 min. Spanish with English subtitles

A man and child climb a mountain to fulfill a promise in this touching short film that underscores the importance of landscape and nature to Sotomayor’s cinematic and emotive portraiture.

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