We need to be visionaries
Interview with Dominga Sotomayer and Ignacio Ocampo, CCC
CCC – Centro de Cine y Creación is located at the heart of Santiago, Chile. Why do you think that CCC’s position at the centre of the city is important and how is this reflected into the types of audiences your space attracts?
Dominga Sotomayor: From the very beginning, we knew that we wanted the cinema to be at the centre of the city. CCC is in this very specific neighbourhood which is very mixed and well located – it is easily accessible by subway and bicycle. In the centre of Santiago many people live in these dense and crazy neighbourhoods where there is not so much space for recreation. In the area where CCC is, there are many public schools close by, and we found this important because we wanted to create a network with local schools. It is also a neighbourhood where many migrants live, people from Venezuela and Colombia for example, so we wanted CCC to be a centre of encounter where these people feel welcomed.
Something that we did from the very beginning was to try to involve the community in the construction of the cinema. So when we found this place four years ago, and were still looking for funding, we opened the doors for people to come and have breakfast. We invited them to our activities, to show the neighbourhood what we were planning to do. At the same time, CCC is not located at an obvious location– it is not on a main street, it is quite hidden, although it is in front of a square. This means a lot to us, because there are usually many people around that square, and we wanted to be a neighbourhood house.
Ignacio Ocampo: I would like to add that CCC is not only a cinema, it is a cultural centre. I like to think that CCC is not only a space for cinema, it is also a place that the community can share.
Can you recall a moment or an event at CCC where different communities came together? Does film have the capacity to bridge generation, culture or class gaps, in your opinion?
Dominga: I can recall some events, although I don’t think we’ve been able yet to bring all communities together at the same time. We have been organising cinema workshops for kids from the neighbourhood, with breakfast or lunch for the community. We also had this open-air screening, with a focus on Barbara Hammer, to which many young people came. For that event, the public was mainly students and people from the neighbourhood, all of them between the ages of 17 and 27. So each event brings a different type of audience to CCC. Another example is a theatre festival we hosted called Santiago a Mil, at which many different people came together. The event was free of entry for the community, but also many people from the theatre or cinema world attended the play, because it was really a good production and they wanted to watch it.
Ignacio: Retrospectiva was a nice experience. During the pandemic, we did many online screenings. A lot of people that came through different places around Chile, the north and the centre, Chilean people from different regions.
Dominga: I agree. We thought we had a very specific audience, but then we did this online retrospective of Ruiz & Sarmiento and people from Bolivia and from other territories came We had people from the very south of Chile, where there is not cinema culture at all, so we started thinking that we should continue doing some programmes online, because that means bringing in people from various territories. The idea of community was at the beginning very much site-specific. Then of course, because of the pandemic, the idea of the community expanded to social media; we would have these online conversations on instagram for example.
We still think we are just starting. We had this pre-opening phase, and then the pandemic happened, so now the challenge begins. Until now, we have been offering free events, and because of that, there are always many people from the neighbourhood. This is always a challenge in Chile, because there is not a huge culture of cinema or of culture in general. Culture is for the bourgeoisie or the elite. I think we have managed well so far, though, because our events are full of students and people from different classes. We have to see how this will work from now on. We know that this won’t work if we only have people from the rich neighbourhood coming, because that will last for a weekend. We always knew that such people would come from the opening and then they would never come again. So we are mainly putting effort in building an audience of students and people from the neighbourhood– this is our focus. If you do an open-air screening at night with a band, maybe some people will come. But CCC is really a place that is not easy to access for the rich people; there is no parking, it’s really meant for the people from the community. It is a place that is easier to come by bicycle, subway, or walking, it is kind of hidden, and the neighbourhood is a bit punk!
Tell us a bit more about CCC’s film programmes. Any screening or event from the past few months that has been especially meaningful for you?
Dominga: It was during the pandemic when we really started. In Chile, everything was closed during the first year of the pandemic. We had a permit to be open two hours per week. I remember that they suggested we show films at the patio. We screened El agente topo, the Oscar-nominated documentary film by director Maite Alberdi. It was especially meaningful because we were at the patio, we had rented the equipment, and there were people sitting, following the distance regulations. That night, many people from the audience said to us “we wanted to thank CCC for welcoming us tonight to this screening, because this is the only cinema open in Chile today”. We realised then that we were super lucky that we had this patio.
After a year of the pandemic we were hosting an event again at the cinema with people. We realised that we needed to focus on the open-air screenings, and for us it was important to keep the patio alive consistently, instead of just putting energy into the little cinema that we had inside.
Now the cinemas are open again, but we really wanted it to be not just a cinema but a centre of encounter, where you can touch cinema; you can see a friend, meet the filmmaker, see the actors. This is the focus now. We do not want to make just screenings, but rather events of reunion with people. Meanwhile, due to a lack of resources, we always need to rent the equipment, which is something that we really need to fix. At the beginning, the focus was to be good technically. We thought that we needed a lot of money, because we need this projector. We wanted to be like a European-quality cinema. Now the focus is on bringing people together, to have the space running. We are more flexible now.
You have been working collectively with other partner cinemas for Cinema of Commoning. Do you believe that such coalitions can change the route and structures of the existing film industry and distribution in the future?
Dominga: We have one experience; it was during the pandemic. We were planning this retrospective, an idea which came from a Bolivian cinema. The Bolivian team did not have a cinema space; they were a collective trying to programme in different places. So one of our friends from Bolivia, Diego, who was part of this collective, said, let’s do a programme together! At the beginning, I thought it was strange to have a programme in both Bolivia and Chile. I remember we were programming together and we were trying to not schedule showing the same films simultaneously. We were all people who love cinema and who would meet online in the South of Latin America. Diego was doing a programme on Thursday, and we would do a programme on Wednesday. He was inviting directors on Zoom to present their film, so we decided to do the retrospective on Thursday, and the same people would attend both events. This would be absurd two years ago. We knew that this would not last, because at some point people were tired from watching things online, but at least it was interesting for that time.
We need to be visionaries: what is next? How can we collaborate from now on? We have initiated a collaboration with Harvard Film Archives, and we will use the screening as our bridge. I have been teaching Chilean cinema at Harvard. It makes no sense to be in the States, talking about Chile, but what if Chilean people meet in Chile to watch that film, and students at Harvard watch the film simultaneously? We can connect different networks through a screening. We are quite optimistic and we have to be creative in the future. And again, it is a challenge of distribution. I don’t think that distributors expect things to be moving so fast, and it can be a mess with distribution rights when you want to do collaborative things and show the same film in different places as part of the same programme. But this will change, it has to do with erasing borders.
We are always trying to find ways through which we can bring good films to the people. That is why we try to collaborate with festivals, or with a university. The idea is to have, little by little, a lineup. Until now, we have been reacting, not really acting; we have been trying things to “catch” things. It has been a challenge to create our own programme, as we do not have a proper budget. In terms of working collectively, we are very lucky with the team that we have. Ignacio and Daniela have been working with us throughout this pandemic time. It is thanks to their energy that CCC is alive. It is also great that we are different; they are students, so younger than us, and they can reach out to different types of audiences. When it comes to programming, we always vote when choosing films. So we always try to be very democratic.
Do you have any wish or direction that you want to follow for the next period or so now?
Dominga: We would like to offer a programme consistently. So far, we have been doing pop-up events, but our wish for the future is to have screenings at the patio during the weekend, and events at the indoor cinema during the week. We also really want to collaborate with other disciplines, so we would like to initiate some residencies for artists. Cinema will be at the heart of what we do, but we see our practices expanding into the realm of theatre and art in general. We always wanted to be an open school, offering courses and events throughout the year.
Ignacio: As we mentioned before, CCC is a space for the community. So in the future, we would like to expand on that idea; the city must know that we exist in this neighbourhood. We also think of CCC as a space that embraces multiple artistic positions. We have hosted a multimedia exhibition of a group of artists from Chile, and we think it is also meaningful for the artistic community to offer an exhibition space for emerging artistic practices beyond cinema, and for the community.
Dominga Sotomayor (*1985, Santiago de Chile) is a director, writer, and producer, co-founder of CINESTACIóN and CCC, Centro de Cine y Creación. Her first feature film “Thursday till Sunday” was developed at the Cannes Cinéfondation and won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival. In 2015, she premiered “Mar” at the Berlinale Forum. For her second feature film Too Late To Die Young (2018) she became the first woman to receive the Leopard for Best Direction at Locarno Film Festival. Recently she premiered the documentary “Correspondencia” co-directed with Carla Simón (2020) and the collective feature film “The year of the everlasting storm” premiered in Cannes 2021. Since 2020 she has been Visiting Professor in the Department of Art, Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University. She is currently part of the Chilean Pavilion at the Biennale Art exhibition that opened in April 2022.
Ignacio Ocampo is a Chilean filmmaker and producer. He studied at Instituto Profesional de Artes y Comunicación ARCOS. His experience it’s mostly related to video art and documentary film. Since the year 2019 he worked as a producer for Centro de Cine y Creación – CCC in Santiago de Chile.