Francisca Alegría’s film is both a transformative experience and an impressive directorial debut.
I have for the last week been covering this year’s Sundance Film Festival for The Nerd Corps for the very first time! I was so excited for this opportunity when first notified and did not think it was real. I swear I have been dreaming about this day since I started to interact in this space of online film criticism. Now, one whole week into the festival it has been a surreal experience being able to watch so much cinema. Even though the festival is held online this year because of the ongoing pandemic it has been a wonderful experience. There were a lot of films that caught my eye but of course, having to stay on course with what I reviewed on the site I had to watch all of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. This part of the program includes films from so many parts of the world like Eastern Europe and Latin America to name a few. While looking through the program this Chilean directorial debut caught my eye, so let us commence my coverage of this year’s Sundance Film Festival by discussing, Francisca Alegría’s The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future.
The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is the directorial debut of Chilean filmmaker, Francisca Alegría. Written by Alegría, Manuela Infante, and Fernanda Urrejola, the film’s cast consists of Mía Maestro, Enzo Ferrada Rosati, Benjamin Soto, Leonor Varela, and Frederique Gudelj. The film looks at a family that is in a distress after finding out that their patriarch has seen his wife again who has been long dead for some time now. The mother returns from the dead and sets on a journey of recollection and rediscovery. The film takes elements of magic realism and incorporates them into a narrative surrounding climate change, family dynamics, intersectional feminism, and grief.
Francisca Alegría constructs the most impressive directorial debut that I have seen at this festival. It is almost impossible to believe this is a debut when this feels like a third or fourth film. The control over the style and narrative of the film radiates through the screen as you watch this tender but heartbreaking story. It was hard to not cry over how every person approached their feelings to see their mother/grandmother again. What makes this film so impressive though? There are multiple layers at work here that if one pays attention they can realize they are all working with each other. The commentary on environmental issues through the cows, family dynamics through the arrival of the mom, and also about the repression brought by the oppressive Chilean government. It all tremendously works together to construct this magnificent film that has left such a long-lasting impression on me.
The film is aided by such exquisite cinematography from the use of natural light but also because of its poignant camera movements. There is also not a single bad performance but it was truly Mía Maestro and Enzo Ferrada Rosati’s performances that tugged at my heartstrings. First of all, Maestro does not speak a single word of dialogue but her facial mannerisms and body language express everything that could be said with words. Rosati on the other hand playing a trans woman who is forced to keep it a secret plays their heart out and you feel every second of it. By the end of the film, there is no room to say someone carried the film because every performer gave their all and it reflects in the final product. I am equally excited for everyone’s career to come after this film.
It is unknown at this time when this film will be released to the public, but get used to learning the name of Francisca Alegría. Alegría has built an explosive first feature that will lay the groundwork for one of the most impressive filmmakers to come out of Latin America. Whenever this film is released please do seek it out. I know my life is better because I watched this.