By – Gareth Jones
For fans of Folk Horror based on true stories, magical realism, and slower paced cinema such as Andrei Tarkovsky or Terrence Malick
Based on a true story, the film is set in the 19th century on an island off the coast of Chile called Chiloe. It is the story of a 13 year old indigenous girl named Rosa Rain. She and her father work for German settlers (after the colonialism of Spain) where they take care of the farm’s sheep. There is a great tragedy with the sheep and her father is blamed and killed when the farmer sets his dogs upon him. After this she seeks the help of a group of indigenous people who practice witchcraft or sorcery for revenge. Now, in some hands this could be an extremely graphic and terrifying film. However, Chilean director Christopher Murray uses magical realism and a slow, painterly approach to the story incorporating the historical trial and facts about the events that occurred.
It is hypnotically shot by Maria Secco (with over 30 films under her belt) who finds beauty and harshness in the natural landscapes and scenery on the island. It reminded me of the great Alwin Kuchler, specifically his work with Lynne Ramsay (specifically Ratcatcher) and like that film Sorcery is a perfect example of photo-lyric realism, a realistic visual style that has a poetic or lyrical nature to it.
Christopher Murray also wrote the film and found many insights by speaking and recording the indigenous people in Chiloe today. Sadly, many of the troubles are still present and the film resonates strongly because of that. The brutality of multiple colonizations and near annihilation of the indigenous culture and people is a challenging but necessary story. The fact that it is presented in such a manner does not lessen this in the slightest. In fact, it allows the audience to contemplate it further.
The acting across the board is superb, with a special mention to Valentina Veliz Caileo as Rosa Rain. Much like the incredible Yalitza Aparicio in Roma, Veliz Caileo is an indigenous actor in her first film and she is stunning. Established veteran actor Daniel Antivilo provides a performance like a whetting stone to sharpen the performance of Veliz Caileo. The fire and emotion is believable and real.
This film can be placed in many genres, but I think that the versatility and flexibility of Folk Horror is a comfortable fit. All of the factors listed before enable the film to have an atmosphere and tactile experience that aligns with the key elements of the sub-genre. The ability to use folklore as a means of commentary is one of these greatest aspects and is implemented succinctly in Sorcery..
Showing exclusively at The Sidewalk Film Festival Saturday, August 26 • 5:30pm @ASFA
Written by: Gareth Jones
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