In August 1896, the first film reels to be shown in Chile were shown to an astounded audience in Santiago. These were the same films that only eight months earlier, the Lumiere brothers had shown in Paris.
Photographer Luis Oddó Osorio, enthralled by this new technology, screened his first short documentary on 20 May 1897 in the Great Philharmonic Hall on Tarapaca Street, in Iquique.
In Valparaiso the first film ever fully produced in Chile was launched at the Teatro ODEON on 26 May 1902.
The film, Ejercicio General del Cuerpo de Bomberos (General Practice of the Fire Department), filmed on 20 May the same year, was only three minutes long and showed the annual public show performed by the Valparaíso Fire Department in the city’s Anibal Pinto square. Nothing is known of the film’s director, cinematographer or production team, and only 27 seconds of footage remain today, held by the Catholic University of Valparaiso.
Film production boomed in Chile in the silent era between 1910 and 1931.
The “New Chilean Cinema” movement flourished in the 1960 s with politics a key theme.
The 1973 military coup drove many filmmakers abroad, where they continued to make films reflecting on and criticising the Chilean military government under Augusto Pinochet.
Since the year 2000 Chilean films have been more numerous and won awards, and become more internationally recognised, including The Maid which won the 2009 Golden Globe for best foreign film.
Also recommended are:
Machuca (2004) which poignantly captures the human story behind the Chilean dictatorship and intense division that came with General Pinochet’s violent rule.
Gloria (2013). In which multifaceted Chilean actress Paulina García charmingly plays Gloria, illuminating the ups and downs being single and free – yet not so young.
A Fantastic Woman (2017) which was the first Chilean film to win Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Cinema in Chile has a long, at times difficult history and its films should be better known by a wider audience.
Finally, a mention of a Chilean cinema. Cine Arte Normandie in Santiago, is just a short walk from the city’s historic centre. The cinema stands as a testament to the Santiago of 20 years ago. Both the ticket and popcorn vendors look like they’ve been manning their posts since film was first invented, and the 500 or so seats that make up the huge auditorium are veritable antiques compared to those in mainstream cinemas.