1976: Manuela Martelli’s Tale of Pinochet’s Dictatorship from Female POV (Cannes 2022; Directors Fortnight)

Directors’ Fortnight Title ‘1976’ Gets Trailer

Paris-based Luxbox has shared first trailer for Manuela Martelli’s 1976, one of Chile’s most anticipated feature debuts at this year’s Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight.

The movie is produced by Chile’s outfits – Cinestación headed by director-producer Domingo Sotomayor (“Too Late to Die Young”) and Wood Productions, founded by Andrés Wood whose “Machuca” starred Martelli and Aline Kuppenheim, the protagonist of 1976.

The film is set in 1976, one of the bloodiest years of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Kuppenheim plays Carmen, the wife of Santiago de Chile doctor who heads off to her beach house to supervise its renovation during the holidays.

Carmen is a well-heeled middle-class wife and mother, sporting in the trailer a pearl necklace, cashmere coast and stylish shoes. She also suffers the subjugation of her gender and conservative class.

“Mama’s becomes literature teacher,” her daughter ironizes about Carmen’s reading short stories to blind villagers.

As Carmen is deciding whether sunset pick could be good color for a wall, Pinochet is throwing chained Chileans into the ocean.

Appealing to Carmen’s Christian conscience–“he’s like a starving Christ,” he says– the local priest appeals to her to help cure young man who’s escaped from jail.  At that point, Carmen’s life and sense of identity change for ever.

This is a period piece about the daily life of a leisured mother. Yet it is scored with ‘70s synthesizers’ anticipating horror. The jarring music underscores sense of dissonance between Carmen’s public persona and private self as she awakes to the contemporary reality of Chile.

Genre tropes seep into the film. There’s an echo of French “polar” crime thrillers – think Jean-Pierre Melville – in Carmen’s car journeys, and the story of principled outsider battling far larger odds, but rarely portraying their feelings, as the films builds to grim reckoning.

Martelli also signals entrapment–Carmen’s image caught in a mirror, goldfish in a plastic bag, the heavy period decor–to reflect character who glimpses a new freedom beyond the cloistered life of a woman of her class.

It’s an attempt to relate what Pinochet’s dictatorship did to people from the post of view of a woman.

Produced by Omar Zúñiga (“The Strong Ones”) and Sotomayor and Alejandra Garcia and Andrés Wood at Wood Productions (“Violeta Went to Heaven,” “Spider”), 1976 earned 3 prizes at the Toulouse Latin American Festival’s Films in Progress.

Augusto Pinochet’s murderous dictatorship from Female POV?

Martello: For me it’s an act of justice for those anonymous women who never appeared in my history schoolbooks. It started when I asked myself about my maternal grandmother whom I never met. I wanted to revisit the year she died from the inside of a house. She was victim of that bloodiest year and I wanted to give her and other women one space to exist.

Score creates sense of both dissonance and horror

That is the equation of the score. The music in the trailer is inspired by the music that Mariá Portugal composed for the film. With Mariá we wanted to take a different route from the symphonic music you usually expect from period scores. We needed something to reflect the rarified space that Carmen as the protagonist enters into, and the way she feels. This is how we started looking for ‘70s synthesisers.

Genre seeps into the film?

I think “seeps” is precise word to describe the relation of the film with genre, because everything that happens in the film has to do with seeping. The horror of the period is too harsh to be contained by the protagonist house’s walls, so when it touches her, everything sounds, looks and feels distorted. The film is affected by this filtration, and its codes are distorted as well.