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Living there isn´t hell, it´s the fire of the desert. The plenitude of life that stayed there like a tree (Vivir allí no es el infierno, es el fuego del desierto. La plenitud de la vida que quedó ahì como un árbol)

Javiera Veliz Fajardo | 2019 | Chile | 58

‘Living there ….’ is about the wind, birds, sweat, hands, a wheelbarrow, drought and burial. Could it be possible to disappear in the desert? Totoral is a town that disappears between its hills. a town that was born and raised by the land, by their animals and by survival. The desert is constantly mutating, the trees get drier and the men get older. These men, together with their animals, erase their footprints and their passage through time.

Le Prix Tenk, Cinema du Réel, Paris, 2019

Producer: Bárbara Pestan

Director Biography

Javiera was born in 1986 in Copiapo, Chile, Where she studied visual arts and cinema. In 2009 she founded Pocilga Productions with Bárbara Pestan. In 2013 she studied in EICTV, Cuba. In 2015 she studied for a Master’s in Direction of Photography at Escac, Spain. She has worked on several projects as a producer and DOP. ‘Living there .…’ Is her first film as director and had it ́s international premiere at Cinema du Réel where she won the Tenk`s Prize. Presently she is producing ‘To see is an act’ as well as working on her second film ‘Cuerpo en Agua’.

Director Statement

This documentary is about the wind, birds, sweat, hands, a wheelbarrow, drought and burial. Living there is not hell, it is the re of the desert. The plenitude of life, that stayed there like a tree.

I am from the desert, in Chile’s third region; but I had never been to Totoral until 2010, when I went there to make a short lm. Since then, I have wanted to go back to really understand the life of those men. I remember that the rst thing that caught my attention was the amount of olive, chañar, apricot and pear trees that were in the desert. Everything was on the ground rotting. When I asked why they did not pick them up, the answer was “Because there is no one to do it”.

So I felt the need to get involved with them and observe this land. Little by little, I am getting closer to them and following them in their daily tasks; and I have been able to watch how slowly the desert changes and its men are getting older, how living things wither and survive in the desert. It is said that when an old man retires from his land, he dies. In this place, where there are no more than 50 people, most of them older than 60, to me they are the faithful watchers of the desert. I mean that even if they do not have the strength to work the land–unlike their children who are leaving in search of new opportunities–they survive there without any intention of leaving.

Totoral, called “the oasis of the desert”, is a space that seems inert, but it is alive, just like its inhabitants. The force of nature is so strong, so just, that it is invisible to men. This is what is drives me to continue this search and go every- day to meet them, to get involved and meditate upon it. I think is crucial for us to talk about our ways of life and survival. I want to show, in a metaphorical way, the life of a man in the desert; a man that, for me, is like a tree that is slowly dying.


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  • Photos from LIDF