Short Film of the Week: Campesinos

March 1, 2020
Matias Bolla’s documentary about Gauchos (Patagonian cowboys) is beautiful, affecting and shows us what cinema does best: transports us into an otherwise distant world, providing empathy and self-reflection.

How much footage did you capture for the film?

We captured approximately 15 hours of footage because our interviews ran quite long with each Gaucho (approx 1-1.5 hours).

How long did it take the Gauchos to be comfortable with you and the camera?

It did not take too long, as they were going about their everyday life and we were just there to capture it. We also made a conscious decision to keep our crew and equipment minimal and as small as possible. The first day we met, we made sure to not go in with cameras, we also waited until the final days of the shoot to approach the interviews so that they were as comfortable and open as possible with us.

Had you heard about this tradition, or did you just happen upon it in your travels?

I came across the Gauchos on a trip to Chile back in 2013. I went on a road trip from Santiago to Puerto Natales, to visit family and see the Torres Del Paine. After seeing them riding horses on the road, I asked a local about who they were and what they did, they explained their job to me as farmers that do everything by horse back and usually live by themselves in small ‘puestos.’ This detail really stuck with me, and years passed before I decided to search up more information on the Gauchos and found that there was barely any documentaries done about their personal lives, only their work. This is the spark that grew into the film that it is today, with the intention of finding out how they live a life in isolation and whether isolation leads to loneliness.

What is your personal relationship now with Chile?

As a first generation Australian, my heart is split between both countries. I’ve always had an incredibly strong connection with Chile, with both my parents being Chilean and I feel that making this film was a very logical step for me to connect with my country, but also present a part of our culture to an audience here in Australia and the world. Everyone in my family (except my immediate family) lives in Chile, so I visit very often but Australia is my home.

What do you think that the Gauchos lifestyle can teach us in the Western world?

Patience and slow living. We come from a society that is constantly switched on, and over-thinking is normal; in their environment over-thinking could easily drive them mad, and I think the same applies for our lifestyle as we tend to live in a perpetual state of stress. Living in a cabin alone is often romanticised as a way to get away and find yourself, but I think it takes an extreme belief in self and will-power to overcome overwhelming feelings of loneliness.

Was the film self-financed by you? If so, did you try to access some sort of funding, and if so why/why not?

The film was a passion project and completely self-financed, I didn’t even think to approach funding because of the subject matter and language. I made this film for myself to learn about the Gauchos, the fact that it was able to speak to so many people worldwide was a bonus and a testament to the importance of sharing untold stories.

Is documentary where you want to go with your filmmaking?

Not necessarily, I also do a fair bit of screenwriting across drama, but research and authenticity is incredibly important to me, so all my filmmaking has a ‘documentary’ approach to it regardless. My real passion is telling Western Sydney stories in the medium that is appropriate for the subject matter, whether that be documentary or narrative.

What other projects have you got on the boil?   

Ideally, further down the track I would love to go back and create a feature film about more aspects of the Gauchos lifestyle; there are many untapped stories that I just couldn’t fit in a 10 minute film and I believe their story has the potential to be universal.

Here in Australia however, I have a few projects in the works, one of these is a narrative web-series about the rapid growing hip-hop scene in Western Sydney that will explore culture, music and masculinity.

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