Jorge Riquelme Serrano’s sophomore feature “Some Beasts” has impressed since sweeping Toulouse’s 35th Films in Progress in March and premiering its final version in San Sebastian’s New Directors section where it once again notched top honors.
Riqeulme writes, produces – with his company Laberinto Films – directs and edits his films, so its no surprise that “Some Beasts” comes a full three years after his impressive debut “Chameleon” earned instant recognition and screened at the Seattle International and London Film Festivals, among others.
Like “Chameleon” before, “Some Beasts” is a violent, psychological thriller focusing on isolation. In it, a family disembarks on a cold and damp island on Chile’s southern coast, where a middle-aged couple try to convince their parents to invest in renovating an old house into a hotel.
When their the home’s caretaker, also their guide on the island, disappears, the family becomes trapped on the island, suffering freezing temperatures, a lack of drinkable water and some beasts hidden within the family.
Variety talked with Riquelme ahead of the film’s MIA Market screening, where Paris-based Cité Films is handling international sales for the feature.
You found great success with your first film “Chameleon,” then took three years to follow it with “Some Beasts.” Was that layoff intentional?
Both of my films have been entirely self-made. On both I was director, producer, screenwriter and editor. I feel like three years is what it takes me to make a movie using this model. I give myself over completely to the projects I develop at Laberinto, the production company I founded in 2015. I try to pose new challenges and risks when facing a new project. There is growth in all aspects: the script, the number of characters, the complexity of the location, the number of shooting days. Now I’m writing my third film and am facing new challenges. I think it’s necessary to take risks and be brave in artistic creation. One must be as free and honest as possible when thinking about how to tell a story.
Your early success has put you at the forefront of an exciting new generation of Chilean directors with some large shoes to fill following the successes of the Larraín brothers, Sebastián Lelio, Alejandro Almendras and others. Do you see any trends among new filmmakers in Chile? Is there a sense of community, or is it more individualistic?
I believe that Chilean cinema stands out worldwide for its personality and the diversity of themes and stories, each with a creative freedom and a voice of its own that revitalizes and seduces the festivals and the public. Chilean cinema has had to forge its own path since funds and funding sources are scarce for so many filmmakers. In a way we have turned that lack of resources in a method of making cinema that is internationally recognized. In my experience it’s more a case by case situation however than any sort of collective or community.
Your first two features have been thrillers, is that a genre you’d like to stay with, or could you see yourself experimenting in other genres?
It’s an interesting genre most of the directors I admire have worked in. When I started working on “Chameleon,” I was clear I would do a trilogy about violence, darkness and the complexities of the human being. I’m now working on the third story of the trilogy, closing that cycle before I plan to move to other genres and cinematic styles.
Both your films take place on the coast, in isolated wooded areas and shot in such a way that the viewer can almost feel the cold, humid atmosphere of the characters. What is it about this setting that appeals to you?
The climate has a narrative reason in both films. It’s a reflection of the emotions experienced by the characters. Both spaces are one more character in the cast. Both spaces narrate and are decisive in the story. My films wouldn’t be the same if they’d been shot in other spaces. Both are places with a story of their own that are introduced into the arteries of the film and flow through the cast and crew. Both transform as the story progresses. They begin bright and idyllic and become claustrophobic.
Was the story written for the island, or did you go looking for an island after writing the story?
When I thought about telling a story around a family vacation, I knew I would use isolation as a trigger. That sense of confinement would be the cause of conflicts between the characters to erupt. I started looking for places with that characteristic in Chile, and a friend told me about Chaullín Island. I traveled with Eduardo Bunster, the director of photography, to the island and as soon as I got off the boat, I knew that it was definitely the place for my story. I then did a rewrite thinking specifically about that island, house, vegetation and weather.
Can you talk about your experience in San Sebastian, winning the New Directors award?
It was a beautiful week that was crowned with the New Directors Award. It’s an important recognition for the film. The list of directors who have won this award is amazing, names like Bong Joon-ho or Pedro Almodóvar. We are so grateful to the festival and the jury for this award, and I hope it will be a push which allows me to improve in my future work.