Cut Down Kite (Volantin cortao): Rome Review

Rome Film Festival
A noncommittal story about two Chilean youngsters who don't follow the rules.

Chilean directors Diego Ayala and Anibal Jofre's loose-limbed second feature stars Loreto Velasquez and Rene Mirando.

An intern at a center for youthful lawbreakers in Santiago de Chile isn’t quite cut out for the job in Cut Down Kite (Volantin cortao), the second feature of young directorial duo Diego Ayala and Anibal Jofre (Chaiten).

Loose-limbed and hand-held, this 77-minute doodle of a film is flighty in more ways than one, though at least the performances by leads Loreto Velasquez and Rene Mirando feel authentically lived-in as they portray the growing attraction of a female intern struggling to draw clear lines between her life and that of the charming young thief who steals her heart, respectively. An in-competition spot at the recent Rome Film Festival might help Cut Down Kite get noticed on the international festival circuit, though it’s too slight to travel much beyond the lower regions of the festivalsphere, let alone be picked up for distribution outside its home country.

Paulina (Velasquez) is barely out of her teens herself but nonetheless has found a work placement opportunity at a center for juvenile reintegration (actually filmed at the capital’s Centro semicerrado de la Cisterna). One of her charges is the cute David, who’s there because of a robbery by intimidation, but before they’ve even spoken two words she has to tell him he can’t walk around with that switchblade he’s wielding. However, she does give the knife back to the youth, which, unfortunately for her, is seen by her supervisor who immediately reprimands her.

Though Paulina doesn’t say much, this clearly doesn’t sit well with her (or at least the back of her head, which is often featured more prominently than her face). The necessary distance she needs to keep from the kids at the center becomes even more of a problem when she falls in with 16-year-old Manuel (Miranda), another one of the problem kids.

When Manuel takes Paulina to a party, it’s clearly a recipe for disaster and a line has been crossed that can’t be uncrossed, especially by Paulina who’s technically one of Manuel’s caretakers. Ayala and Jofre don’t make a big fuss out of the moment however, simply following their two protagonists on their journey together as things slowly spiral further out of control.

It’s clear that much of what occurs here is at least semi-improvised and this helps augment the film’s sense of authenticity, though it also comes so close to feeling like a real-time documentary at times that one wishes one could take an editor’s scissors and cut out the boring parts to get to the story’s key moments and perhaps provide some insights. But despite naturalistic performances and a very long sequence at the house of Manuel’s chatty grandma (Maria Ruth Troncoso), which fills in some of Manuel's backstory, the characters remain largely unknown ciphers, generic lost souls who have decided to hang on to each other.

This strictly non-judgmental observational stance also keeps the film’s final sequence from having any kind of moral, psychological or even simply real-life repercussions, since the film ends before Paulina and Manuel will have to face the possible consequences of their out-of-control actions. This ends the already quite non-committal film on a completely unresolved note that feels less open-ended than simply truncated.  

Technically, the HD-shot film is modest, with cinematographers Diego Gomez and Victoria Jensen often preferring positions so close to their subjects that only parts of them, such as feet or legs, are visible, which makes the handheld camerawork at least varied.  

For the record, there was no translation of the title on the print reviewed and the Rome catalog confusingly uses two titles: Cut Down Kite and Kite Adrift.

Venue: Rome Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Escuela de Cine UDD, Gallinazo Films
Cast: Loreto Velasquez, Rene Miranda, Victor Montero, Alejandro Lafuente, Isaac Arriagada, Isis Kraushaar, Maria Ruth Troncoso 
Directors: Diego Ayala, Anibal Jofre
Screenwriters: Javiera Gonzalez, Javier Valderrama, Nicolas Herrera
Producer: Soledad Trejo
Directors of photography: Diego Gomez, Victoria Jensen
Production designer: Paula Trujillo
Music: Manuel Garcia
Costume designer: Javiera Gonzalez
Editor: Camila Mercadal
No rating, 76 minutes.