Director Katherina Harder: “Making films in an extreme region brings many challenges”

Director Katherina Harder pointed out that filming in an extreme region comes with its own set of challenges. The graduate of the Casa de Bello Film School and a native of Iquique, seeks to represent Chile in the Live Action Short Film category of the Oscars 2023. The short film will compete alongside 200 other works to be part of the short list of the Hollywood Academy Awards, a list to be announced on December 21st.

-Where does this short film come from? What prompted you to photograph the city of Pachica?
-In desert stars I wanted to explore the conflict of the water crisis from a childhood perspective. And do it from the Tarapacá region, a territory that has been experiencing this problem for many years now and with which I have also felt very close throughout my life, because I was born there, I grew up there, my family lives there and all my childhood memories. The first image that inspired me to write this short film was a piece of news I saw a few years ago on regional television, where a boy from an inland village was fighting alone against the wall because all his friends from the village were away. gone. That image stayed with me for years and eventually became a reflection on the feeling of loss that I wanted to explore in this short film. That loss of the most important affections, friendship ties and memories related to the place where we live.

As for the city of Pachica, for me it represents many other cities in northern Chile that today are experiencing environmental and migratory problems. In this sense, I wanted the place to become one more character. I think places and landscapes tell us a lot about the story, the characters, their sensations and emotions.

How was the process of making the film? What do you think were the biggest challenges?
-Making films in an extreme region like ours involves a great number of challenges and complexities of all kinds. The conditions are literally extreme, because there isn’t training in all areas, there isn’t enough technical equipment to tackle a shoot, for example. Indeed, we had to bring a truck from Santiago traveling overland for three days to transport equipment, in addition to the fact that we are also in the driest desert in the world. Facing a recovery there is humanly very hard.

On the other hand, the shooting was in October 2019, full blown. We were in Pachica, days before filming began, and we began to inform ourselves about the news and everything that was happening. It was overwhelming for all of us, because although we wanted to be on the street, telling this story related to the water crisis had a very deep meaning, precisely because it was one of the many reasons that was mobilizing us as a society. It was not easy to shoot in the middle of the context. In fact, he was on the verge of being suspended. There were teammates who couldn’t travel, they didn’t let the cameras and technical equipment that arrived from Santiago pass through the airport, which is why we had delays and had to shorten the shooting days. We also had to deal with curfews to transfer people from Iquique to Pachica and vice versa, etc. All in all to the complexity and staging of a shot in the middle of the desert.

Then the pandemic hit us and we had to do all the post-production in the midst of a complex landscape. We decided to wait to release him as we didn’t want to start his journey on line. We dreamed of being in the hall conversing with the audience, so we are happy that this can finally happen.

What does participating in the long list and represent Chile at the Oscars?
-First of all it is an absolute surprise. Completely unexpected, but without a doubt it is news that fills us with emotion, above all because it is a regional work, carried out in an extreme region. This is also the first work that I can make one hundred percent in my region, so everything that is happening has a special symbolism for me. We Northerners have always lived with this feeling of desolation, of feeling part of a forgotten territory, an element that is actually present as part of the narrative of the short film. So it is even more exciting for me to think that a Nordic work, made in a city that many surely do not know or have not heard of, could today represent Chile in this case. It is good to know that with this qualification, Iquique and the city of Pachica will remain today in the register of the Academy.

-The film had a large participation in festivals and won several awards, how was this experience for you as a team?
-It was a very emotional journey for the whole team. I think none of us expected all the recognition we are receiving because we don’t make works thinking about them, but we create them with conviction, from what mobilizes us. We had the opportunity to share some exhibitions with the public and it is very nice to hear how a story with a local history, with our landscapes, starring the children of Tarapacá, resonates and connects so honestly and deeply with different people and communities around the world.

-When you were very young you already co-founded the Iquique International Film Festival and in addition to the Barcelona Senior Citizens Film Festival, how did you live these experiences? What would you recommend to filmmakers who are just graduating from high school?
-I feel that the more we can feed on different visions and experiences, the more tools we have to build. And, in that sense, I think film festivals have been a unique space for me for a lot of learning and exchange, which has allowed me to see and hear a lot. We started the Iquique Film Festival when I was 19, so I feel I grew up with and in this space, which has always allowed me to be very connected to what is happening in my region. Most essential to me in building my stories is that they honestly resonate with my identity. I think this connection to what we represent somehow allows us to dive into deeper spaces.

-You are working on the screenplay of your first feature film, also in Tarapacá, could you tell us something about this next film?
I can’t say much, but it’s also a very territorial story. A coming of age the protagonist is a 14-year-old girl, framed in the celebration of the feast of the Virgen de la Tirana.

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