Belgian civil engineer Gustave Verniory still had a lot to learn when in 1889 he was hired to construct a railroad across the unspoiled natural landscape of Araucanía, a region that had recently become part of Chile. The tumultuous past and the ever-changing landscape are a constant background presence in Notes for a Film.
Director Ignacio Agüero takes a provocative approach in this portrait based loosely on Verniory’s memoirs, choosing to film actor Alexis Mespreuve visiting old sites and re-enacting adventures in modern-day Chile. Shooting in black-and-white, he is able to seamlessly blend the new scenes with archive footage, making history palpable.
But Agüero and Mespreuve also step out of that narrative when they visit the Mapuche, an oppressed community still scarred by colonization—just like their once abundant habitat. A playful film that nonetheless forces us to face some hard facts.