February 2, 2023

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Christopher Murray brings ‘Witchcraft’ to Sundance and Gothenburg

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Chilean director Christopher Murray travels to “Witchcraft” on the Chilean island of Chiloe, where a teenage Wheelich girl, Rosa Rein (Valentina Veliz Cailleo), witnesses the murder of her father by a German settler. At first he feels helpless. But when she encounters the much older Mateo (Daniel Antivillo), he makes her aware of her roots and the magic that comes straight from the land.

“I’ve always been curious about that place. It’s a murky area,” he said diversity.

After its world premiere at Sundance, the film — produced by the Laren brothers’ Fabula and co-produced by Pimienta Films and The Match Factory, with the latter handling sales — will next go to international competition in Gothenburg.

Flirting with horror, Murray was actually inspired by a true story — the 1880 persecution of members of the Recta Provincia organization, accused of witchcraft.

“This whole idea of ​​the state vs. the wizards struck a chord with me. They tried to treat them like criminals, which was their way of rationalizing it all, I guess. It was so interesting to see these perspectives clash, and it still is today. “Most political discourse is about figuring out how different views can coexist in a country,” he explains.

“What happens in terms of miracles, or perhaps natural things [in the film], it all came from that case. and from the atmosphere of the island.”

Murray — also behind 2016’s “The Blind Christ” and the documentary “God,” which he co-directed — spent a long time there, he says, eager to explore the details of the “overwhelming landscape.”

“I wanted to make it sensorial. To really capture the texture and skin of the island,” he said.

He was busy “collecting stories”, eventually co-writing with Pablo Paredes.

“For me, it’s important to get a feel for the place. I need to ‘feel’ the film. Maybe it has to do with my documentary background — I always look for the truth,” he says.

“Everything, all these stories and myths, came from my research. On that island, stories are everywhere: it’s normal for people to talk about their neighbors who ‘transformed into dogs, but no more.’ I wanted to be a part of them [Rosa’s] Journey.”

He sees his headstrong protagonist, constantly moving through different worlds, as someone in the process of change, he notes, eventually deciding to embrace his identity and even reject the Christian faith.

“When you wanted to join that [Recta Provincia] Organization, you had to erase your past in a way. Also, I liked this idea of ​​anti-baptism; I found it very beautiful. He is able to wash away the traces of colonialism, that painful history, any imposed beliefs.

He manages to find a community and exact revenge, mostly thanks to his unexpected guardian Mateo.

“After all the horrible things he’s been through and the feeling that he’s nowhere, he’s finally reached a place of care. There’s something tough about the way they relate to each other, it’s true, but there’s tenderness in that kind of roughness,” he says of the film’s improbability. said about the pair.

“This story is about power, about the destruction of culture that is happening in Chile. But there are many universals when it comes to treating local communities. I just hope people connect with it.”

Yet, as the relationships he shows go beyond the human realm, Rosa gradually notices all the hidden connections between the plant and animal kingdoms as well.

“Mystery is the essence of filmmaking. At least for me,” Murray said.

“I decided to approach this ‘witchcraft’ as a means of resistance, something that could empower and transform — politically as well. I care about the political aspect of my films, but to me, it’s not just about facts or information. My approach is more lyrical, metaphysical. even spiritual. There is also something political about emotion.”

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