8 Nov 2021
Oswaldo Salas, Paulina Bazán
Pisahueco aka Holestepper by the meticulous Sergio Fernández is a stupendous, Peruvian 2018 short highlighting the abuse that can uprise from the Gen Z age through the use of digital technology, primarily.
A diffident teacher named Angel (Oswaldo Salas) experiences cyber mockery online from his students from the vine era(fidget spinners and blott pencil cases are some of the giveaways), bullying him for his disability. As a consequence, he takes drastic action.
Many of us have had the awkward experience in a classroom where the power is held by the students rather than the teacher, but not all have seen in unfold in the new digital age we find ourselves in. Pisahueco illustrates this remarkably by altering the aspect ratio to recognisable snapchat filters and beholding the infamous ‘vine energy’. The caricature shots combined with the notoriously satirical soundtrack (An Der Schönen, Blauen Donau by Johann Strauss II) makes spectators feel as though they’re in on it too; filming it in the classroom or watching it on the internet. We are voyeurs. This fuels us with guilt; almost all of us have seen such sardonic videos on social media before and they can be funny when the context is alien, but Fernández forces you to question the morality of our fresh digital society and the pessimistic future.
Salas’ performance is exceptional. He perfectly balances both apprehension and eloquence in a short so full of contrasts (drum and bass collated with classical, articulated cinematography juxtaposed with an iPhone, sensory overloaded farce followed by a timid classroom). We see our protagonist at home, insecure at his climax; staring into the despairing mirror and later prideful at his resolution; a seldom happiness as he charmingly pets his dog. There is something so soulful about a teacher being portrayed at home when as a student the idea seems so unimaginable. Both Salas and Fernández connote it so delicately and sympathetically.
Pisahueco is ultimately like many other shorts, a quick, encapsulated reminder of human behaviour. Fernández’s debut touched so many nerves that will be current for many years into the future, the most provoking and successful approach a debut director can have. His strategic explosions of digital and cinematic skills are somewhat reminiscent of postmodernism (early A24 films and Michael Winterbottom came to mind) as well as a new theme of post-postmodern cult for the latest societal generation. Angel acts as our hero in his story, standing bold in the face of the unknown for his generation and the audience of Pisahueco are left with both hope and regret for our society’s ominous future; another excellently coherent contrast.