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La Vorágine short film

Directed by Cristóbal Sánchez

Starring Yarko González, Dylan Ibanez, Luis Vera, Ana María Torres, Marcelo Mieres & Mauricio Salazer

Short Film Review by Chris Olson

Set in the Chilean shanty town of Valparaíso in 2015, experimental fictional short film / documentary La Vorágine (or The Vortex), from filmmaker Cristóbal Sánchez, is a shocking and powerful piece about the conflict existing between the social underclass whom inhabit the place, and the corrupt officials and housing developers who want to exploit it.

Sánchez's film is one of brutal partnerships. For every conflict or power struggle being depicted in the story, it seems the audience is given a visual or audial conflict in the filmmaking. Whilst the community go toe-to-toe with the mechanical bulldozers dumping endless amounts of refuse on their home, we are also presented with beautiful Chilean skylines. The abstract, industrial, grinding score is at times brutalising, and then feels ethereal when accompanying the naturalistic shots of boys playing football or drinking water from rocks. This unnerving contrast is so cleverly revealed, its impact is subtle and remarkable.

By combining the use of documentary footage alongside fictional scenes, La Vorágine is also making a harsh commentary on the nature of the dispute. The corruption and agendas which threaten this community are as difficult to dissect as the film's distinction between real and make believe. A powerful technique that is as simple as it is effective in highlighting the ludicrous nature of the evil apparently being delivered on these people.

As with any form of documentary filmmaking, the events themselves must be questioned and the director's motives examined with a degree of curiosity. We must challenge what we are given, and audiences will make up their own minds as to the morality of those involved, but shunting, affecting filmmaking like this should never go unnoticed.

Aesthetically, Sánchez dares to be bold. The stark brutality of the conditions found in this shanty town are not shied away from, whilst the lighter sequences such as one character travelling through the city with some scrap metal are playfully delivered. High angle shots of the city are picturesque, the bludgeoning frames of battle between the two sides are gripping, and the final sequence (which I will not spoil) is simply flabbergasting!

Aside from getting a little carried away with the documentary footage at times, which caused the coherence to stumble slightly, La Vorágine is a stunning film. Daring throughout and starkly captivating, it is a moralistic tale with capitalism playing the role of the villain, and the victims are the most vulnerable people in that cruel system.

As the film itself states, "Nothing is free. Everything is privatized."

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