I had no expectations when going into the film Magallanes, so I guess it was inevitable that the film far exceed them. I was incredibly engaged with the Peru/Argentina/Colombia/Spain coproduction, about the story of a former military officer (Damián Alcázar) surprised to meet a victim form the violent repression of the Shining Path insurgency years ago. This man (the titular Magallanes) decides to help the woman as he reflects on the sins of the past.
I pondered about whether I liked this film so much because I knew nothing of the film, so I did not experience any boredom in knowing what to expect next. A similar effect can be found in contemporary trailers, which more often explain much of the plot of the film, seeking to confirm your expectations rather than mystify them. Magallanes is a solid drama, and I suspect I would not have been so engaged had I know more about the initial set up of the film. Whether that is due to my consumption habits or the strength of the particular material is unknown to me for now.
Of course, going into the film blind meant I knew nothing of the historical contexts the film indirectly mentions. While there is no direct mention of the Shining Path insurgency and its repression, the film alludes to its horrors in more ways than one. The whole film is premised on one particular horror and trying to right it. I was lucky to walk into a solid film and have the access to research its hidden meanings afterwards. This isn’t an approach that can be fully implemented all the time, but its refreshing to enact, especially in a festival context.
I found the film’s acting particularly solid, with Alcázar and Magaly Solier (playing Celina the female lead) being absolutely riveting. Solier gives an incendiary speech in here native Quechua, a language that 1/3 of Peruvians speak. It’s unfortunate that this speech was not translated, which makes me wonder why this decision occurred. Quechua is not a completely inaccessible language, so it was possible to make a translation. Perhaps it was a director’s choice, to make Celina’s rage visual and apparent, but inaccessible due to the horrors of the past and how they pervade the present. She’s experienced unspeakable acts, and in a way she can still never speak about them, or at least, never be understood.
Magallanes is an engaging piece of work, and one of the better entries I’ve seen at TIFF.