Some may have noticed that Paraguay is suddenly on the map of Latin American cinema. While the handful of films being produced each year can’t possibly compare to other regional up-and-comers like Colombia and Chile, it’s certainly no small feat for a country with a population smaller than that of Lima. Even more heartening is the fact that Paraguayan spectators are actually hungry for national cinema, and overall it seems local filmmakers are striking the right tone for general audiences. Just three years back, the thriller 7 Cajas (7 Boxes) beat out Titanic as the top-selling film of all time in Paraguayan box offices, then went on to pick up some serious artistic pedigree in the form of a Goya Award nomination.
Now 7 Cajas is getting a run for its money from a very different film entitled La Chiperita, which follows the frustrated love life of Virgilia, a humble street vendor who is hopelessly enamored by her closest childhood friend, who also happens to be the local niño bonito. Family trouble also stirs up the plot when Virgilia’s older brother loses contact with the family and suddenly stops sending his remittances from Spain, leaving their mother in dire economic straits.
As of this weekend, La Chiperita had only been in theaters for four days, but the feature, which was shot in large part in the Guaraní language, was already occupying the number four slot at the box office, right behind Hollywood mega-productions like Hotel Transylvania 2, Everest, and Maze Runner: Scorch Trials. Watching the trailer, it’s no surprise why the film has been at the receiving end of a glowing word-of-mouth campaign, with impressively naturalistic performances complemented by a simple but naturalistic visual style. With plenty of time left in its theatrical run, director Hugo Cataldo Barudi is hopeful that his heartfelt little film will eventually make it all the way to number one.