In a Landscape. The Films of Dominga Sotomayor

Dominga Sotomayor (b. 1985) is a Chilean filmmaker celebrated for her impressive cycle of carefully understated films focused upon characters passing through liminal transitional zones and moving toward revelations that come when and where they are least expected. Across three feature films and numerous shorter works, Sotomayor has refined a patiently observational and quietly personal mode of narrative cinema that uses its stories of becoming to meditate, in subtle yet profound ways, upon larger themes of family, identity and the ideological undercurrents shaping them. Sotomayor’s debut film Thursday Till Sunday immediately revealed the nuanced tone and style that give deeper meaning and emotional resonance to her films. An intimate portrait of a family of four on an extended road trip, Thursday Till Sunday often seems to unfold in real time as it captures the drift and mindscapes of its characters while gradually disclosing their different investments in the journey.

Sotomayor’s feature films are each, in essence, family portraits, although ones that focus less upon individual members than the unspoken emotions and tensions that hover between parents and children. Frequently questioning familiar tropes of the so-called “coming of age” genre, Sotomayor’s films give equal presence to the adults as the children—even at times seeming to invert their roles. An autobiographical thread further distinguishes Sotomayor’s films through their gently pointed scrutiny of the utopian ideals of hippiedom she knew from her childhood spent within an off-the-grid ecological community outside Santiago. Taking place in a ramshackle artist commune directly modeled on her childhood home, Sotomayor’s latest film Too Late to Die Young expands her canvas to the larger family formed by the tight community. With its forest setting, Too Late to Die Young also makes powerfully explicit the fascination with nature shared by all of Sotomayor’s films, which together explore landscape not as a background but as an expressive force in dialogue with the emotional lives of her characters. – Haden Guest

The Harvard Film Archive welcomes Dominga Sotomayor as a 2018-19 Baby Jane Holzer Visiting Artist in Film.