Brutal honesty.

Who said the truth doesn’t offend? Experience shows quite the opposite, as some journalists well know. An old song by Luis Alberto Spinetta sounds more pertinent: “Truth is the most restless thing”. Truth as a self-changing concept and as the cause of volatility. There are hidden truths that can only be guessed, and the act of bringing them to light causes tension, stress; the exact opposite of tranquility.

For one decade, in Chile, Bettina Perut (1970) and Iván Osnovikoff (1966) dedicated themselves to do precisely that. Implacable, they stand in front of a given situation and draw back veils, masks or simply hold their gaze, until finding a reality that is little or not at all pleasant. It’s easy to understand why their films startle; they usually shed light on contradictions, dangerously close paradoxes, and find humor in pathetic situations that cause nervous laughter.

The cinema of Perut + Osnovikoff specializes in putting that operation into practice, generally without anyone asking. In this sense, it differs radically from the Chilean cinema of the 70s, from the revisionism that guided the efforts of Patricio Guzmán, Pedro Chaskel or Miguel Littín. Those films, especially the
documentaries, questioned the given order with an ideological goal, they destructed in order to build. On the other hand, Perut + Osnovikoff don’t present an alternative: if there is one, we’re not going to find it in their films. This gives their operation some sort of gratuity, and some might even see cruelty in it.

But cruelness is not in the gaze, but in what it records: what we don’t see and is there and exists, putting everything into question. It’s us who don’t want to look.

In their first films, Perut + Osnovikoff achieved this effect by working on the traditional forms of documentary with unusual rigor: the portrayal of a businessman, for example, deprives him of the attributes he claims to have, revealing his megalomania and his failure. One can’t avoid asking how they achieve it, and what could these people have said after seeing themselves like that on the screen. The case of Un hombre aparte, the film we’ve talked about, triggered a tooth-and-nail discussion on what could and could not be done in a documentary. And it’s all because of the presence of images without any kind of retouching, a ferocious antithesis of usual representation, which mixes condescension and self-glorification.

In recent years, the two filmmakers have ventured on more complex procedures, departing from the classic notion of documentary cinema (a term that’s probably too small for them) while maintaining their search for every single detail. The result, which can be seen in El astuto mono Pinochet contra La Moneda de los cerdos, isn’t less provoking. In it, many stories speak of a truth hard to admit: that a great part of the Chilean population still justifies the dictatorship. In these films, as well as in their latest, Noticias, the filmmakers are the forceful proof that something is changing in the Chilean panorama. A new cinema is emerging; young, disrespectful, and with things to say, or, better yet, to show.

Fernando Chiappussi