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The Wolf House/La casa lobo

After escaping from a commune of German religious fanatics, Maria has escaped into the Chilean countryside and stumbles upon a house where two pigs live. Maria moves in and imagines the pigs to be children,naming them Pedro and Ana. The house is an ever-changing structure and Maria, Pedro and Ana take on many forms and appearances. As Maria finds herself stuck in this evolving nightmarish reality, the wolf, who lives in the nearby forest, threatens to keep them all trapped inside. 

“The Wolf House is a feature film where beauty, fear, disorder and the narrative itself are born from the precarious and permanent states of change. It is the story of a beautiful young woman who is held captive, but it is also the story of a physical and mental world that falls apart, destroys itself and renews itself time and again.”

Director’s statement – Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña

Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña’s The Wolf House/La casa lobo features mesmerizing stop animation and constantly shifting imagery to illustrate the pain of extreme isolation. The story is based on the sordid history of Colonia Dignidad, a secretive sect of German emigres in Chile who became particularly notorious for child molestation and the torture and murder of prisoners during Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. The main character Maria has escaped from the sect and the house symbolizes a sort of in-between space where she sheds her old life and prepares to re-enter society. The wolf is that society, which is perceived as a threat but in reality is not. Much like the actual wolf which has been hurt over the centuries by unshakable falsehoods. The film is narrated by a male voice from the sect that haunts Maria’s existence. The story also draws from the classic children’s fable The Three Little Pigs. 

Chilean filmmakers León and Cociña’s feature film debut is an impressive feat. Produced over several years, it incorporates stop animation with papier mâché puppets made of cardboard, tape and other materials, and paint on the house’s walls and floors. The characters inhabit the house both in three dimensional form and within the walls themselves. It’s quite a marvel to behold. Viewers who enjoy innovative stop animation films and unique storytelling will want to seek out The Wolf House/La casa lobo.

The Wolf House/La casa lobo releases in virtual theaters today. Visit the official website for more information.

Rojo

“For a cop things are black or white. In the middle there’s nothing.”

The year is 1975. In a small province of Argentina, a group of people are quietly emptying a house of its most valuable possessions. It’s rumored that the family who lived there were the targets of a government raid and have since fled the country. This introduction tells us what we need to know about mid-1970s Argentina and the government corruption that endangers its own people.

Claudio (Dario Grandinetti) is a town counselor and lawyer. A tense confrontation with a stranger, later known as El Hippie (Diego Cremonesi), at a restaurant escalates and ends in tragedy. Claudio leaves this unfortunate event behind him and transitions back to his normal life with his wife Susana (Andrea Frigerio) and teenage daughter Paula (Laura Grandinetti). Corruption lurks around every corner as friends go missing. After arranging an underhanded deal with his friend Vivas (Claudio Martinez Bel) to buy the aforementioned house, Claudio discovers the true identity of El Hippie and that Vivas has hired former cop turned celebrity detective Sinclair (Alfredo Castro) to investigate. It’s only a matter of time for things to unravel for Claudio as Sinclair zeroes in on what really happened.

Written and directed by Benjamin Naishtat, Rojo is a moody and atmospheric drama that explores how government corruption enables the worst in human behavior. I found this film deeply unsettling. Right from the very beginning I got a sense of dread. As though danger were lurking at every corner. Why is the camera so still? Why is it looking at this house for so long? Is the house going to explode? It didn’t but that was the palpable tension that made me so engrossed in the film. 

Rojo means red in Spanish and the film utilizes the color in many ways. The most interesting use of the color comes from the scene when a solar eclipse casts a red glow. This is a pivotal point in the film as detective Sinclair has just entered Claudio’s life, stirring the pot and making Claudio very uncomfortable. Claudio and his wife escape to the beach where they witness the eclipse and this moment the beginning of an end of sorts.

Naishtat was inspired to make Rojo from his fascination with the 1970s and “the symbolic burden” the political persecution and exile of the Argentine people had on future generations. The overall theme of a greater evil threatening the personal freedoms of citizens is compelling and universal but really gives the viewers a sense of one of the darkest times in Argentina’s history.

Rojo opens in New York City at Quad Cinema and the Film at Lincoln Center on Friday and in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Royal on July 19th.

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