At the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival — ‘My Never Land’ looks at Chile, where protests are once again filling the streets

By David D’Arcy

Reviews of three new documentaries at TIFF: My Never Land, Killing a Tiger, and Miucha: The Voice of Bossa Nova.

Some films from the Toronto International Film Festival are already in theaters. my imaginary country, directed by Patricio Guzman, plays in New York and opens at Cambridge’s Brattle Theater September 30.

Guzman, now 81, witnessed the election of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970 and the US-backed military coup that toppled Allende in 1973 and imposed decades of rule by the extreme right. Guzman was imprisoned and went into exile.

He did The Battle of Chile (1975-79), an epic account of Allende’s rise and ousting, a subject he revisits in Chile, the stubborn memory (1997). In 2010, Guzman made nostalgia for light, a meditation on hope and loss set in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, a region with the lowest humidity in the world and the clearest skies. In this desert, where astronomers can observe the stars with astonishing clarity, pro-Allende prisoners were sent in 1973. More than three decades later, Guzman watched them search the sand, looking for the remains of their loved ones. .

In his excitement My imaginary countryA street-level view of the protests that rocked Chile starting in 2017, Guzman recalls the advice he received from Chris Marker, who gave the director’s team black-and-white film rolls during the filming The Battle of Chile. “When you want to film a fire,” Marker said, “you have to be ready for where the first flame will appear.” We don’t see that first flame, but for much of the film, Guzman and his crew run through the streets to catch up with young protesters dressed in festive colors and singing and dancing in unison. Think of the musicians on a football field and multiply them. Think of children running in every possible direction. “Dodging fares is another way to fight back,” shout the teenagers as they protest fare increases by crowding the subway.

A sense of hopeful possibility permeates the documentary, as crowds of young Chileans battle the streets with police, tearing up the sidewalk to find rocks to throw at the helmeted men who shoot at them. Guzman’s extended conversations with today’s protesters, all female, all fiercely confident, give the film a growing motivational energy. It’s as if this younger generation is about to fly into battle armed with rocks and banging on pots and pans. Their loud drumming and singing are the soundtrack of their generation (and of this film).

A second Chilean revolution? When you see the rallies and the passionate women who lead them, you also see what is missing. Nobody – apart from the helmeted policemen – seems to be over 30 years old. Everyone looks like a student, born well after 1973. Unions and other organized groups seem unrepresented, but this movement took advantage of a rewrite of the country’s constitution and elected Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old leftist. years, to be president of Chile. Amendments to the constitution have since been suspended. Stay tuned.

Guzman witnessed what happened to a revolution welcomed by “a people without arms” (“un pueblo sin armas”), the masses who turned out to support Allende, and then saw how the Chilean armed forces fought back, sending the air force to strafe the presidential palace and imprison tens of thousands of people. The fiftieth anniversary of these events will take place next year. My imaginary country observes a restless generation, more impatient and angry than ideological. We will eventually see how much the rest of Chile has changed. I see another film in preparation.

A scene from kill a tiger.

kill a tigeran Indo-Canadian co-production, has all the elements of a dramatic crime novel, but this in-depth documentary by Nisha Pahuja is a methodical portrait of a family in an Indian village, shamed by the rape of their 13-year-old daughter, and ostracized when they dare to ask for justice.

The facts here are clear, so clear that no one disputes them. The young girl (the family requests that her name not be used) was dancing with her friends at a wedding in the village. She was taken away late at night by a young man and raped. Two other friends of hers raped and beat her, then threatened to hurt her if she told anyone.

Her father, a rice farmer named Rajit, surrenders to the police and the defendants are arrested, but Rajit is told that the best solution is for her to marry one of the rapists. (One of them turns out to be his first cousin.) Best to deal with this crime in the village, Rajit is warned. His family is already rejected. No one in the village speaks to him, neither to his wife nor to his daughter, who is hiding inside their house.

Rajit decides to take his daughter’s case to the nearby town of Ranchi, whose court halls are crowded with lawyers and clerks in shirts and ties who seem drawn from a mixture of Kafka and Daumier. The prosecutor, a tall, thin man with dyed red hair, tells Rajit he has 500 active cases.

“It’s Jharkand (the state),” says a villager who blames Rajit for letting his daughter out at night, “I can’t even trust my own son.” Indeed, India is going through an alarming crisis: a woman is raped every twenty seconds. Few of these crimes are reported, much less prosecuted.

A subplot in kill a tiger traces how Rajit’s family is being helped by the Srijan Foundation, a non-governmental organization that fights gender-based abuse. Without his help, rape would probably have been another statistic in an Indian village. Or an ignored and unrecorded crime. The expression “to kill a tiger” comes from a proverb which warns that a tiger cannot be killed by a single person. Help from the foundation may also explain why the cameras have such close access to the family; a poor rice farmer finds a way to pay lawyers as the case drags on. Court clerks had to be bribed, Ranjit says, to keep the case of a raped 13-year-old on the docket.

The simple act of reporting the crime represents an encouraging change of direction in the village – serenely picturesque from afar, brutal up close. Yet we watch as the three defendants, led in and out of court in handcuffs, threaten Rajit and his family in front of police and lawyers.

kill a tiger takes a slow approach, unlike that of bandit queen (1994), a grim and violent melodrama based on the life of Phoolan Devi, a low-caste girl, raped by upper-caste men, who led a gang for revenge and, after a prison sentence, was elected in the Indian parliament before she was assassinated in 2001. When TIFF screened bandit queen at a showcase of Indian films in 1994, Phoolan Devi pleaded for the festival to cancel it because there were scenes she called shameful. TIFF chose to show it. You can look bandit queen on line.

Shame and fear nearly keep the rape case from moving forward, with Ranjit turning to drink to relieve his stress. Yet the frenetic pace of kill a tiger gives this look at the slow workings of justice its telling power. Rare convictions are the result of the stubbornness of the family: three men went to prison for 25 years.

A revolutionary achievement for women’s rights? Pahuja ends his film with embittered villagers complaining that Rajit and the verdict have shamed them. For Rajit, the verdict was more than expected, but punishing a crime does not change a culture. No word on a release date.

Another new doc at TIFF has drawn attention to a voice from the past.

A scene from Miucha: The Voice of Bossa Nova.

Miucha is a name that few serious bossa nova fans know. At TIFF, the documentary Miucha: The Voice of Bossa Nova revisited the life and music of Heloísa Maria Buarque de Holanda (1937-2018), who helped the world listen to Brazilian music in the 60s and 70s. She is an artist to discover

We got to know the vocal side of bossa nova through the voice of Astrid Gilberto, whose sultry delivery of “Girl from Ipanema” popularized the music as somewhat aloof and unruffled. In archival clips of Miucha’s performances, that same whispered reserve is often present, but in her debut she also had a powerful, full-throated delivery, with hints of bebop energy. Miucha sang ballads in a way that convinced you she owned every word.

Miucha was the sister of songwriter Chico Buarque, a student of poet Vinicius de Moraes, second wife of Joao Gilberto, and one half of a duo with Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim. She also sang with the famous saxophonist Stan Getz, the most important non-Brazilian star and popularizer of bossa nova. It’s a hell of an imprimatur, but these references were also problematic, as we learn in this documentary made with affection by the cousin of Miucha, Daniel Zarvos and Liliane Mutti. For years, Miucha has been kept in the shadows.

We learn that Miucha met Gilberto in Paris in the early 60s and they got married in 1965. The couple chose to live in Europe and had a child. Motherhood knocked Miucha off the stage, though her private life is documented through letters and an audio diary, which are central to this film. Eventually, she returned to play with Jobim, and her stature in Brazil was assured. Getz, another key collaborator, comes off as something of a heel, but you don’t hear that in their performances together.

Even those who thought they knew Miucha will learn from this carefully researched portrait, which traces his ups and downs, in music and in life. There is no release date for Miucha but, in the meantime, much of his music can be found online.

David D’Arcy lives in New York. For years he was a programmer for the Haifa International Film Festival in Israel. He writes about art for numerous publications, including the art diary. He produced and co-wrote the documentary Portrait of Wally (2012), about the fight over a painting looted by the Nazis found at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.