5 Questions with Chilean-Canadian Director Carlo Guillermo Proto

Carlo Guillermo Proto is a Chilean-Canadian filmmaker based out of Montréal whose feature debut, 2012’s El Huaso, documents Proto’s father’s battle with short-term memory loss as he contemplates taking his life, all while pursuing his dream of being a “huaso” in Chile’s provincial rodeos.

The documentary was an international phenomenon and was widely considered to be one of the best Latin American documentaries of the year. In our chat with Proto, he talked about expanding beyond documentary, Mary Poppins, and his dream of directing a Chilean novela.

When did you decide to pursue filmmaking?

In 2004, I was grinding hard in the Toronto theatre scene for already seven years when I picked up a Super 8 and Canon GL camera to make my first hybrid experimental documentary, Pura Sangre. At this point in my life I was in love with theatre but it was a dysfunctional relationship where I saw myself constantly banging my head against a perpetual creative wall. My ideas never evolved or went to the places I wanted them to go. Finally, with cinema, I could reach those places and tell my stories in the ways that felt complete and fulfilling. After Pura Sangre, in 2005, I moved to Montreal and started creating cinema.

Why have you tended toward documentary rather than narrative?

“What I love most about the documentary scene in Chile is that it’s ruled by women.”

I don’t have a preference. I’m a filmmaker who wants to tell stories. Documentary is just a logistically and economically more efficient way to tell stories within the confines of cinema. There are few young documentary filmmakers who don’t see fiction filmmaking on the horizon. Everyone my age who is making documentaries successfully has a fiction film in their back pocket, waiting for the right moment to write or make it. Fiction films that are made well take more time and financing. I’m not afraid to wait.

What is the situation like for filmmakers in your country?

I’m lucky that I come from a county (Chile) where cinema is as healthy as it has ever been and my home is a city where some of the best filmmakers in North America live, Montreal. Being surrounded by so much greatness is something I’m incredibly grateful for. What I love most about the documentary scene in Chile is that it’s ruled by women. The ratio of young successful female documentary filmmakers in Chile is astounding if you compare it with the rest of the world. I feel proud and privileged to be part of that canon of exceptional talent.

Carlo Guillermo Proto and his father Gustavo, the protagonist of ‘El Huaso’
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Which film has most inspired you and why?

I don’t know how to answer this question. It’s impossible to answer which film has most inspired me. It’s my daily practice to never see things vertically but horizontally. If I had to pick, it would probably be Mary Poppins because it was first film I remember seeing when I was a child in Quillota, Chile. Watching ‘reality’ and the animated world colliding into each other like that felt similar to seeing my first Terrence Malick, Jim Jarmusch, or Werner Herzog film.

What’s one film you’ve always wanted to make but haven’t been able to?

I apologize for being so paranoid but the one film I really want to make I would honestly never say publicly because of my fear that someone else would make it before I do. Lets just say that its a fiction film which involves a well-known musician as the lead in a popular Latin American city. Having said that, I would also love to co-write with Guillermo Verdecchia and direct a Chilean telenovela, on my own terms. That would be a dream come true.