Director Dominga Sotomayor Talks About Filming in Chile During Pandemic

Lead Photo: Courtesy of Dominga Sotomayor.
Courtesy of Dominga Sotomayor.
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When Chilean filmmaker and Harvard University visiting cinema professor Dominga Sotomayor was invited to participate in a collaborative film project last year during a global pandemic, she knew the assignment was going to be difficult but welcomed the challenge.

At the time, Sotomayor was in Chile where COVID-19 restrictions included curfews and limitations on movement throughout the country. If Sotomayor wanted to make a movie, she was going to have to keep the production as intimate as possible.

“We had these very strict rules where we couldn’t move around for more than two hours per week,” Sotomayor explained to Remezcla during a recent interview. “I think [the film] captured a very special and fragile time for all of us. I created something with what I had in my hands.”

What Sotomayor created was Sín Titulo, 2020, one of the seven shorts that make up the anthology film The Year of the Everlasting Storm. Along with Sotomayor, other directors who were asked to contribute to the feature included David Lowery (The Green Knight) and Oscar-winning documentarian Laura Poitras (Citizenfour).

In Sín Titulo, 2020, Sotomayor tells the story of a lonely mother who is separated during the pandemic from her two daughters. Since Sotomayor was under strict quarantine rules in Chile, she decided to cast her own mother and sister, both actresses in real life, in the movie.

With a weekly permit in hand, which gave Chileans permission to travel to places they needed to go like the supermarket or pharmacy, Sotomayor was able to go to her mother’s home where she shot the film in July 2020 in the course of two weekends.

“It was challenging to make a film with almost nothing,” Sotomayor said. “It was almost like making a film in film school – in a simpler way and embracing the circumstances. It was like I was completely free.”

With so much freedom, Sotomayor spent much of her time improvising with her mother and sister and was open to ideas as they presented themselves during production. Even her brother came over to help edit the film.

“It was a beautiful experience to spend time with [my family],” she said. “To be able to make a project during this uncertainty was very nice. I think it’s a very honest film that captures time for each of us.”

Currently, Sotomayor is working on a script for her next feature film, her first since her award-winning 2018 drama Too Late to Die Young. She has also moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is continuing to teach at Harvard this semester, this time in person. She says she loves teaching and sharing with her students her personal approach to making movies.

“I’m trying to show them they can make films with what they have around them,” she said. “Making films isn’t about inventing, it’s about observing and capturing stories from reality.”

The Year of the Everlasting Storm is currently playing at select theaters.