A Crossbreed of Languages and Territories

17 Oct 2023

A Crossbreed of Languages and Territories

by Ariadna Solera Centeno

Notas para una película by Ignacio Agüero

Notas para una película melds the transformation of Araucania, the Mapuche peoples territory in southern Chile, during the late 19th century, with items on todays political agenda. We experience the past as seen through Belgian engineer Gustave Verniory's diary, who constructed a railroad, symbolizing modernity's imposition. The film interlaces the neo-Columbian Exchange and The Second Industrial Revolution with present Chilean conflicts over homeland and national recognition. Agüero navigates a cinematic map where diverse expressions collide and coexist; a crossbreed of nations, film techniques —composing with color changes and found footage—, languages and historical periods. The film begins with a burnt frame of an enormous ocean liner, interconnecting both continents. While the camera is located in the Angol terminal station—a gateway to Araucania— the narrator introduces Verniory's text. From there, the journal leads from the initial theatrical and static presentation of the character to phantom rides shot from a modern train. Nowadays, a cinema spectator assimilates the territory's history told in the first person by its testimonies. Before Photoshop and IA tools, Roland Barthes described Reference” as the fundamental order of photography, the primary documentary technology of the 19th century: “the noema of Photography will therefore be That-has-been.”[1]

Following the fifth law of Franzberg —“The history of technology is the most relevant”— Agüero places the railway at the center of the plot. Industrial revolutions imply a new biological regime, leading to societal and environmental consequences like pandemics and biosphere degradation. Dadabhai Naorojis "Drain of Wealth" theory from colonial societies to metropolises is still relevant. It marked the emergence of unionism. However, with agricultural globalization «there was no 'Peasant International'»[2], European descendants enforced social Darwinism, racial supremacy, and institutionalized racism persisted post-colonialism. Instead, the Chilean filmmaker navigates through these themes while displaying scenes from Verniory's text and emphasizing a humanist approach towards the foreigner, like the scene where he learns the numbers in Mapudungun. The act of listening sets off the appreciation of our differences and the richness of collisions, while censorship leads to dehumanizing otherness.  Verniory's actor wanders through forests and over paths towards the camera, acting solely as an interpreter studying the territory.

Agüero does not translate Verniory's text; languages are an expression of culture, and he wants to emphasize cultural plurality. The "explorer's diary" is a literary genre that we Spaniards are familiar with. Empiricism and practical experimentation remained common practices in ethnographic” colonial states.  We witness several rehearsal scenes regarding his work with voice: intonation, diction, intensity, timbre, rhythm, the importance of the enunciation of the word. This year, a study published by The Center for Public Studies (CEP) concluded that the majority of Araucanian citizens demand cultural and material recognition of the Mapuche people, starting with the Mapudungun language. While I write these lines, Spain approves for the first time the use of all the official languages of the State in the Congress of Deputies. Only the political legacy of the dictatorship, which reinstated the Bourbon monarchy, has criticized this decision. Despite having a neo-liberalist parliamentary majority, voters have imposed the plurinational condition of the state, which has halted the advance of the unconstitutional and ultra catholic far-right, unlike whats happening in other European states. Language recognition —including cinematic art — precedes historical memory repair, emphasizing its paramount significance in the path to acknowledgment and justice.

[1] BARTHES, Roland (1990): La cámara lúcida: nota sobre la fotografía, Barcelona, Paidós.

[2] OSTERHAMMEL, Jürgen (2014): The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, Princeton, Princeton University Press.




For the first time the VIENNALE hosts a YOUNG CRITICS' CIRCLE. A group of young, international film critics are working under the editorial and organisational guidance of author and film critic Patrick Holzapfel on a number of texts dealing with the programme of this year's festival. This initiative is related to our commitment regarding the perception and discussion of film criticism in its permanent state of crisis.


Image of movie Notas para una película

Ignacio Agüero | Chile, France 2022 | 104 min | OV w/ EN subtitles

Sunday, October 29, 2023:
6.15 pm - Filmmuseum

Monday, October 30, 2023:
1.45 pm - Metro, Historischer Saal