Documentary, 78 minutes, not rated, in Spanish with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3 chiles
More than most, this review must come with a warning label: This movie is not for everybody. If you shell out your hard-earned money and then sit for almost an hour and twenty minutes and discover that not much happens, don’t come whining to me.
There are no stars, no celebrities, hardly any people visible at all. There are no big issues, not much of a storyline. The movie is set in Los Reyes, a skateboard park on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile. Directors Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff intended to make a documentary about the teen skaters who hang out there, but they proved to be poor subjects, self-conscious on camera. The filmmakers were ready to throw in the towel.
Enter Chola and Football, a couple of mangy street dogs, to save the day. Osnovikoff, a skater himself, had noticed that they were always there at the park. They didn’t seem to belong to anybody. And he had the inspiration to make them the focus of the film.
Cinematographer Pablo Valdés trained his camera on the dogs. The images, many in extreme close-up, seem to seep into the very being of the dogs. Much of the time they sleep. Sometimes they chase mounted policemen or bicyclists. They play with found toys — old tennis balls, plastic soda bottles, even stones. They improvise games. There’s no attempt to anthropomorphize the pooches: They’re dogs, committed to their doggie world, graciously accommodating the humans around them.
With the camera focused elsewhere and the pressure off, the teens open up. They talk freely about their lives, their drugs, their troubles with parents and with corrupt cops, their conversation larded freely with the world’s most popular adjective. Eventually, they even begin to talk about their futures. The talk is all off-camera. We see feet. We see hands rolling joints. We glimpse the kids flashing by on their boards, or lounging at a distance.
But the soul of this quirky, lovely movie is in the hands — or the paws — of two dogs. They play, they bark, they observe. Mostly, they lie there — asleep or not, rain or shine (in a little more comfort after someone installs a couple of ramshackle dog houses). There’s love and canine laughter; there’s happiness and there’s heartbreak.
They are Football and Cholo of Los Reyes, the kings of the park.