Upon seeing his American-born teenage son Adrian perform in a school play, Chilean director Sergio Castilla had the desire to make a film that might speak to his home nation’s youth. After developing the script in a workshop with his young cast, the filmmaker came up with this story: during summer vacation from their English high school, four 16-year-olds in Santiago spend their days together in an abandoned villa in the foothills of the Andes. With parents that are absent from their lives on some level, each of the kids must rely on the others for any kind of personal connection or support. In the way are the secrets they keep from each other and sometimes from themselves.
Isabel (Emiliana Araya) suffers the shame and never-ending remorse of a family who continues to repress the subject of two family members who were abducted and killed during one of Chile’s earlier oppressive regimes. Without knowing what exactly had happened to their loved ones, the family has never found closure.
Daniela (Daniela Ropert) has built a wall out of booze, pot, and resentment between herself and her once-close sister and the rest of her family. Daniela loves the Brooklyn-born Sam (Adrian Castilla). Unfortunately, as Sam’s mother is always away in the U.S. on business, he’s generally been left to the care of his quite unstable nanny Ema (Tamara Acosta), who also seems to be quite in love with him. This one just isn’t going to end well.
Finally, there’s the American-born Mike (Joshua Walker), the son of a prosperous onion exporter. Mike’s biggest problem seems to be that he’s a colossally annoying teenager.
The story of how these kids deal with their problems is told simply with handheld cameras, including video cameras sometimes operated by the kids themselves, as they make their own little movies in their new clubhouse. Their movies generally seem to be some kind of horror films. Basically, what director Castilla is trying to make here is a Dogme 95 film with the extra added difficulty of a cast comprised mostly of teenagers. You know, these are the young annoying people you see in the mall. For once, you have teenagers that actually act like teenagers, for better or worse. For a lot of people over the age of, say 19, the behavior of packs of kids of this age group can produce the same reaction as fingernails across a blackboard. However, this is a talented cast and the purely excruciating moments are dispersed among segments of raw, searing emotional honesty. You end up caring about what happens to these kids and hoping that everything turns out alright. Hell, if I can relate to this film, I wonder how a group of actual American teenagers might react. Despite the barrier of a foreign language, I can only hope that this film finds its way to an audience that could truly appreciate it, and for whom it might do a bit of good.