A Clash of Generations By Oliver Rahayel

in 18th Toulouse Rencontres des Cinémas d'Amérique Latine

by Oliver Rahayel

The Holy Family (La Sagrada Familia), which won both the Grand Prix Coup de Coeur of the Festival Jury and the Fipresci Award at the “Recontres cinemas d’Amerique Latine” in Toulouse, is the debut film of Sebastián Campos, a graduate of Santiago de Chile’s film school. The ambiguous title points at the different layers of the film which examines the meanings of the family as a religious, traditional institution in contemporary life. Accordingly, the story takes place within the three days of Easter beginning with Good Friday, a period during which a father, a mother, their grown-up son and two of his friends spend in the parent’s second home at the seaside. The supposed quietness of the holidays is disturbed when the mother has to leave due to the accident of a friend, while the son’s girlfriend arrives – an extroverted woman free from moral boundaries, carrying with her a considerable amount of drugs.

That permanent tension between father and son can hardly be reduced by the mother, and after her departure and due to the presence of the girl, the conflict becomes even more obvious. The girl also has a fatal influence on the two gay friends of the son. Meanwhile a younger girl, mute and living alone in a hut nearby, seems to play the good spirit.

Even though shot on video and with a hand-held camera, young director Sebastián Campos creates visually impressive and atmospherically intense pictures mirroring the evolving tragedy. Instead of a finished screenplay, he brought no more than dramatic structures and ideas to the set, asking the actors to improvise most of the dialogue during the three days of shooting, a task, which they carried out brilliantly. Like in other recent Chilean films, there is not only a high level of acting, but also a strong debate on the conflict between generations, especially between fathers and sons.

The twentysomethings of today’s Chile do not seem to understand or even tolerate their fathers and vice versa; a conflict, which sometimes leads to a total lack of communication. Evidently, the new wave of Chilean cinema, which to a remarkable extent was shown in Toulouse, considers dictatorship as still possible within society. But instead of direct accusations, these films use ostensibly traditional narratives of everyday life, which sheds light on moral guilt in a touching and disturbing way, rather than by showing the misdeeds of the recent past.