Cinema Chile


May 17, 2024

The Hyperboreans, the second feature film by the acclaimed duo Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña (The Wolf House, 2018), arrives at the Cannes Festival as part of the Directors’ Fortnight, which will run from May 15 to 25.

This feature film, which will have its premiere on May 16, marks multiple milestones in the directors’ careers, taking them to the Cannes stage for the first time, where these masters of stop-motion also venture into live-action for the first time, participating in the cast themselves.

In this new challenge, they are accompanied by Catalina Vergara from Globo Rojo Films in production. The team also includes co-writer Alejandra Moffat, Natalia Geisse in co-art direction, Claudio Vargas in sound design, and Paolo Caro in editing, just as in The Wolf House.

The work, which blends fiction and fantasy, began filming in 2022 with an innovative immersive proposal in Santiago, where the public could participate on the film set. The plot follows two filmmakers searching for lost materials from an undigitized film, with the collaboration of actress and psychologist Antonia Giesen. She informs the audience that the following will be an attempt to reconstruct that lost, untitled film.

If you’re eager to discover more about The Hyperboreans, don’t worry! The directors spoke exclusively with CinemaChile, and in this preview to Cannes, we bring you the most relevant details highlighting the continuous success of this Chilean duo in their careers.

“I like to think of movies as collective dreams, as distorted reflections of a community’s reality. For me, this movie is a nightmare about Chile and also a nightmare about us trying to make normal movies.”

Cristóbal León

“All the beautiful people who worked on the set wanted to do things right, and we wanted to do everything crooked. But each person involved trusted us (or acted very well), and in the end, the complex part was taking all the energy that the team radiated and making something sensible with that generosity.”

Joaquín Cociña

What motivates you to make this movie?

Joaquín Cociña: What a difficult question. I can answer from the latest conversation I had with a filmmaker friend. He is in a long pre-production process and shared a fundamental doubt: why even bother making a movie, with all its efforts and expenses, to feed an overpopulated and repetitive production stream? In English, online movies and series are called “Streaming,” which is like making the current, being part of the current, feeding the river of productions. It’s the famous “content” (what an ugly word). I told him that in the context of this stream of audiovisual productions with and without substance, the only thing that made sense to me was to make something particular, perhaps erroneous, but specific and special, something that you can like or dislike but that doesn’t leave you apathetic.

Cristóbal León: First, we wanted to make a movie that embodied our chaotic writing process. During the pandemic, we deliriously lost ourselves in writing a script that turned out to be two and maybe three. We wanted this movie to be the mirror of that creative nightmare. On the other hand, we wanted to make a movie that was a mythological vision of Chile. We wanted to create our own mythology, mixing local and universal myths, historical figures, and ourselves.

Is this the first feature film that mixes fiction and animation?

Joaquín Cociña: It is our first feature film that is not only animation. There are many examples elsewhere, like Disney’s Mary Poppins. In the case of Stop Motion animation, Jan Svankmajer is the foundational stone. But this movie doesn’t have much animation; it’s more like Sesame Street.

What challenges did the creative and directorial process present?

Joaquín Cociña: Cristóbal and I have done many different things, but we never did a conventional shoot, in the sense of having a large team with a shoot limited to a defined time. At first, we thought about assigning separate or rotating roles in direction, but in the end, we chose not to agree and see if we could co-direct fluidly without establishing roles between us. And it worked very well. We know and respect each other’s spaces. It’s a bit like dancing. The most complex part was staying attentive, creative, empathetic, and focused during the exhausting shooting days.

What cinematic or artistic references did you have in mind for this film?

Cristóbal León: Definitely the work we did for Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid was very important. This movie was somehow conceived while working on that. Raúl Ruiz’s La Recta Provincia was a huge reference, at least for me. The work of French choreographer Xavier Le Roy was also a great inspiration for me because he creates works that contain their own explanation, reflect on themselves, and transform. When I first saw his work, it blew my mind because of its ability to absorb more layers. We’ve tried from the beginning to make films that are fictions but also documentations of the process of making that fiction.

Joaquín Cociña: This movie is full of references to the beginnings of cinema. We were trying to dialogue with Méliès, Segundo de Chomón, adventure films from the 1940s, something with Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, with Raúl Ruiz, with Sesame Street.

The team included Francisco Schulz, a fundamental part of 31 Minutos, so that was also everywhere. This movie is also a kind of magic act to transform the experience of working with Ari Aster into our own experience

Joaquín Cociña

It is another theme that revolves around a political aspect, does the cinema of León & Cociña aspire to the reconstruction of memory from art?

Joaquín Cociña: I understand political memory as water falling on sand: you see the water, you see it fall, and it disappears the moment it hits the ground. To make works with a political base I suppose it has in part to do with keeping that memory fresh, alive, so that it doesn’t drain into the sand and disappear. We get used so easily to things being the way they are today, but every moment has its basis in something that grew, that was built, cooked, baked, baked, written, fought, loved and negotiated. More than re-building I think I like the idea of keeping our memory alive.

Cristóbal León: As artists we almost have the duty to multiply the views on the history of our community. I like the metaphor of the dream to think about art, and dreams are uncontrollable, they are sometimes annoying, they relate to the unconscious, to our dark and chaotic zone, not to the orderly and logical narrative that we try to impose on reality.

What elements of engagement do you think the viewer can find?

Joaquín Cociña: We like to make films that are like a cave, like a dream that you go into and, when you come out, you don’t quite know where you’ve been, but you keep some of that ground that you treasure for a long time. It is a film full -perhaps too full- of technical ideas and narrative ideas. It is a forced journey through the act of storytelling, through the attempt to make a film.

Cristobal León: Jajajaja. I don’t know.

Is being in the Fortnight at Cannes another big milestone in your career, each new film is like climbing another rung?

Joaquín Cociña: Every film opens new doors. La Casa Lobo was already out of the theatrical cycle and we had a screening in 2023 in Japan that was a surprise for everyone, with a lot of box office and a lot of love from the people who saw it. Being in the Fortnight is beautiful, it takes us to a place we don’t know. I hope that The Hyperboreans will show us paths we haven’t traveled. It’s a film I still don’t understand, so I don’t know what to expect.

Cristobal León: I don’t think of it as a climb to somewhere. Each new film must be for us a journey into an unknown zone. The idea of the steps makes me think of climbing up to some floor that is above or to a car that I don’t know if I’m interested in. I strive, and we strive together with Joaquín, to think of art not as a system in which we have to insert and validate ourselves, but as something we do. Ever since I was a child, that phrase from Los Prisioneros resonates with me: at school they teach that culture is anything strange except what you do.

To find out more details and relive the premiere of The Hyperboreans at Cannes, follow the Chilean delegation’s day-to-day activities on our website and through our social networks. @cinemachile !