‘It’s ambiguous territory’: Christopher Murray grapples with the supernatural in Sundance drama ‘Sorcery’

Chilean director Christopher Murray travels to the Chilean island of Chiloé in “Brujería”, where a Huilliche teenager, Rosa Lluvia (Valentina Véliz Caileo), witnesses the murder of her father at the hands of a German settler. At first, she seems helpless. But when she meets Mateo (Daniel Antivilo), much older than her, he makes her aware of her roots and her magic that comes directly from the earth.

“I was always interested in that place. It’s ambiguous territory,” she says. Variety.

After its world premiere at Sundance, the film —produced by the Larraín brothers’ Fabula and co-produced by Pimienta Films and Match Factory, the latter also in charge of sales— will soon head to the Gothenburg International Competition.

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

“I thought it was amazing, this whole concept of state against wizards. They tried to treat them like criminals, which was their way of rationalizing everything, I guess. Seeing these points of view collide was very interesting, and it happens today too. Most political discussions are about figuring out how different perspectives can coexist in a country,” he explains.

“In terms of supernatural, or maybe natural things that happen [in the film], everything came out of that case. And the environment of the island.”

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

“I wanted to make it sensory. To really capture these textures and the skin of the island,” she says.

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

“For me, it is important to have an idea of ​​the place. I need to ‘feel’ the film. Maybe it has to do with my background in documentaries: I’m always looking for the truth,” she says.

“Everything, all these tales and myths, came out of my research. On that island, stories are everywhere: it’s normal for people to talk about their neighbor who ‘before turned into a dog, but not anymore’. I wanted to make them part of [Rosa’s] trip.”

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

“When you wanted to join that [Recta Provincia] organization, you had to erase your past, somehow. Also, I liked this idea of ​​anti-baptism; I found it so beautiful. She is capable of erasing the traces of colonialism, of that painful history, of any imposed belief”.

He can also find a community and take revenge, mainly thanks to his unexpected protector Mateo.

“After experiencing all the horrible things she’s experienced and feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere, she finally makes it to the spot of care. There’s something harsh about the way they relate to each other, that’s true, but there’s tenderness in that kind of roughness,” she says of the unlikely couple in the film.

“This story is about power, about the annihilation of cultures that has been taking place in Chile. But there are so many universal themes here, also when it comes to the treatment of native communities. I just hope people connect with it.”

Still, the relationships she shows go beyond the human world, and Rosa also slowly realizes all the hidden connections between the plant and animal kingdoms.

“Mystery is the essence of making movies. At least for me,” says Murray.

“I decided to approach this ‘witchcraft’ also as a form of resistance, as something that can empower and transform, also politically. I care about the political aspect of my films, but for me it’s not just about data or facts. My approach is more lyrical, metaphysical. Even spiritual. There is also something political in emotions.”

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