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April 09, 2013, 12:00 AM | posted by in Filmmakers
“It’s not the film you think it is,” says its director Carlo Guillermo Proto of his film, “El Huaso”. “You’ll go in thinking one thing, and come out thinking another.” Proto is being honored this year at the Cleveland International Film Festival as part of the festival’s Focus on Filmmakers program.
Proto made this emotional documentary about his father, Gustavo, who—like his father before him—is showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. When Gustavo's father was 16 years old, he took his own life before becoming "a burden" on his family. Now nearing 60, Gustavo wants to do the same thing. But first, Gustavo wants to return to his native Chile to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming el huaso—a Chilean cowboy.
It’s not a film about Alzheimer’s or dementia. “It’s more about terminal illness,” explains Proto, “about reaching that end.”
But there are humor and lighter moments in the film, too. The film “plays between fiction and reality," Proto says. He places himself in the movie, not as the director, but as a character. In fact, during previous Q and A sessions the audience didn’t recognize him until he told them that he was in the film.
It was not an easy film to make. In fact, one of the producers of the film had to pull out of the project because it was “such an emotional process.” Proto ended up completing the film on his own. He paralleled his solitary filmmaking with that of his father as “a solitary cowboy, dealing with his issues on his own.”
Proto is proud of the film and says that there is "something very cathartic" about it. "Not only for me, but for the audience as well," he says. Because the film has "many layers, all who see it can identify with it."
His family, though, had mixed feelings at first when Proto began making the film. Now everyone is “supportive of the film and realizes the importance and value.”
But his father was always his biggest supporter. “Your subject has to be your partner,” he says.
--Anne M. DiTeodoro
Photo by George F. Gund.
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