As Diana Sanchez details in her program capsule: “An apt title for the film, huacho means ‘bastard’ or ‘having no father’ but can also mean ‘abandoned.’ ” Chilean director Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ feature debut observes how four members of a southern Chilean peasant family are left behind by a modern way of life that does not include them.
Within the simple structure of a long summer day’s cycle, Almendras’ quasi-documentary tracks its four protagonists through overlapping narrative threads that achieve a threadbare honesty and intimacy. As much a portrait of their struggles to make do on limited means, Huacho skillfully captures the ignobility of work in the modern age. Grandma Clemira makes and sells cheese by the roadside to passing motorists who force her to sell her wares at less than what it costs her to make them. Her husband Cornelio has become too old to work in the fields and suffers for not being able to provide for his family, remembering better days when he could. Cornelio’s memories only annoy the young boy Manuel who longs for the kinds of things that will help him fit in with a clique of well-do-do classmates who ostracize him and call him “peasant.” Manuel’s mother Alejandra is raising him without a father and works as a cook at minimum wage. To get necessary money for the family to pay off its utility bill, she’s forced to pawn off her only nice dress. Sadness and frustration pervade all their lives, with scant relief in sight.
Manuel’s teacher writes on the chalkboard: “One day or another we will all be happy.” But what he’s referencing is death, not opportunity. The film achieves added poignancy for being dedicated to Juan Pablo Rebella who—Sanchez informed me—took his own life, unable to express the pain he felt in everyday life. Huacho holds a gentle mirror up to that desperate pain, reflecting loyalty to family and perseverance against odds, let alone one filmmaker’s homage to another.
As reported earlier on The Evening Class, Huacho received completion funding from the Global Film Initiative. Dave Hudson gathered the Cannes reviews for The Daily @ IFC.
Cross-published on Twitch.