'Yorgos': Montreal Review

YORGOS Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Montreal Film Festival

YORGOS Still - H 2015

An unfocused look at a transformed community.

Easter Island, after Hollywood blew through.

Hollywood could probably use more reminders of the effects — both good and ill — that linger after one of its productions rolls through an area unaccustomed to outside visitors. So in principle, Yorgos, which visits Easter Island two decades after the shooting of Kevin Reynolds's Rapa-Nui turned it upside down, is more than welcome. In practice, though, the observational approach of filmmakers Paco Toledo and Jose Domingo Rivera results in a too-vague picture, frustratingly hazy even considering that their subjects themselves aren't sure how they feel about the encounter with Tinseltown. Though the premise (and the promise of spectacular scenery, which the doc's just-serviceable photography rarely does justice to) will attract some attention at smaller fests, wider exposure is unlikely.

The residents we meet are not naif primitives whose innocence was robbed by contact with Americans. One was in school for AV production when producers hired him as a translator; another formerly worked on the launches of multimillion-dollar rockets. To hear them tell it, it was the island, more than the people, that changed.

We see self-appointed caretakers clearing tall grass — a recent phenomenon here, we're told — from where it obscures ancient stone carvings and drawings. We see the garbage left by tourists whose numbers jumped after the film's release. (Whether that spike was caused by the movie or not is a question no one asks.)

But more often than not, the film lingers on aspects of daily life without suggesting much about whether they were changed by Rapa-Nui. We see some very graphic footage of a calf's slaughter and a colt's castration; we see men fishing and hear complaints about how CONAF, the Chilean national forest corporation, has relocated people to cities.

From time to time someone tells an anecdote about the production, but moments of critical commentary can get lost. One speaker's observation that producer "Kevin Costner is a good man" but director Kevin Reynolds changed the movie for the worse is sandwiched between two long, unrelated fishing scenes and gets no follow-up. (We do hear about the gringos' cocaine, which caused some problems locally.) A politician observes that, given the tremendous influx of money, "people complained, but they all worked with the Americans." In the end, Yorgos contents itself with an almost offhanded comment about the finished feature: "It's such a bad film."


Production company: Ando Liado S.L.U.

Directors: Paco Toledo, Jose Domingo Rivera, Paco Toledo Jose Domingo Rivera

Screenwriters: Jose Domingo Rivera, Paco Toledo

Producers: Esteban Bernatas

Director of photography: Paco Toledo

Editors: Fernando Pardo, Andres Prieto

Music: Ricardo Santander

No rating, 72 minutes