‘If you are watching this video, most likely I’m already dead’ whimpers Paula as she gulps for breath, yes we are in found footage mode in Chilean director Javier Attridge’s Wekufe: El Origen del Mar, only Paula (Paula Figueroa) isn’t in any danger, she’s putting on an act for her filmmaker boyfriend Mathias (Mathias Aldea) as they make their way to the island of Chiloe off the coast of Chile.
Paula is a journalism student working ion her final project, investigating the local legend of the Trauco, a beast with a horned head and a massive penis who is said to be responsible for a whole shedload of unexplained pregnancies on the island. Paula thinks the Trauco.is just a front for the historic sex abuse and rape of indigenous Mapuche native American women by the invading Spanish conquistadors and their Jesuit priests. Mathias is a film graduate, yet to make his directorial debut, who regards Paula’s project as an opportunity to knock out a Blair Witch style found footage horror movie linking Chiloe to the legendary South Pacific island of R’lyeh from the HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.
Paula soon discovers that local officials don’t really want to talk to her about any kind of cover up and that the locals have quite a beef about exploitation and pollution by large corporations. Things get a bit weirder when the couple find themselves being threatened by a set of masked musicians in the local market. A visit to the local market finds some Mapuche women who claim to have seen the Trauco, so its off to the woods to spend a night in an isolated cabin to get some footage for Mathias. I think we know where we are going from there.
Right, heretical confession time – I really didn’t like The Blair Witch Project that much, I found the shaky camera work irritating and the constant fearful whimpering by torchlight really wound me up. I also feel that too many filmmakers have subsequently climbed on the found-footage bandwagon with predominantly poor results. Rekufe subverts the Blair Witch effect by using the conceit of Mathias as a filmmaker to largely get around the shaky-cam effect and by having an existential threat that may (or may not) be very real rather than solely supernatural.This is particularly interesting given the way that the Chilean government has used terrorist legislation laid down under the fascist dictator Pinochet to silence the voice of indigenous people when facing up to corporate threats to their way of life and the environment.
Sure shaky-cam is still used for effect and there is a lot of the usual found-footage padding of people buying provisions, bickering with each other and post shoot fourth wall breaking, but on the whole I thought Wekufe: El Origen del Mar was a well made and thought-provoking movie with a serious underlying social context that makes it stand out from the average found-footage pack. My only gripe is that the dialogue is so rapid that I found it difficult, on occasion, even with my rudimentary spanish to keep up with the English subtitles
Blair Witch collides with Kill List via Michael Moore I give Wekufe: el Origen del Mar a 555/666
Wekufe: El Origen del Mar is presently doing the rounds of film festivals.