Princesita: Incredibly Irresponsible or Beautifully Brilliant? | Raindance 2018

Princesita is the second feature film of Chilean director Marialy Rivas who bought her provocative piece to the Opening Night Gala of the 26th Raindance Film Festival, introducing it with "I hope you enjoy... enjoy isn't the right word... experience this film".

It's the story of a young girl named Tamara living in a cult lead by a man named Miguel. He has chosen her as the girl strong enough to carry a son, despite being only twelve, played so movingly by Sara Caballero, who was eleven when shooting the film. Tamara goes to school unlike all of the other children in the cult and is obviously dealing with the emotional and physical changes that come with being on the cusp of your teenage years, alongside the emotional manipulation by cult leader Miguel.

The film plays almost like a dream, there's a lot of lens flares, as seen above, with things placed in front of the lens so that while the characters move they go in and out of focus. It's very stylistic which I think lends to the way Rivas ultimately wants her audience to feel. She said when researching for the film she spoke to many abuse victims who said they cannot recall the encounter as reality, it always felt like a dream. It's definitely a unique way to explore the otherwise traumatic events which led to a pretty heated Q&A session. One woman expressing that Rivas was lying about the origin of the story, followed by praise from the rest of the audience when woman took to the mic to say how fantastically well done it was. Rivas discussed at the end that the film was based on an article she read in 2012 about a cult in Chile that had been preparing a young girl to give birth to the Messiah due to their belief that the world would end later that year. Rivas did say, however, that Princesita is a fictionalised version of the story she read.

The film left me feeling deeply unsettled. It's not something we see day to day on screen, especially not handled in the way Rivas portrayed. I believe she was sensitive with the topic and most certainly achieved her goal of making the audience feel as Tamara and not with her. I didn't cry for her, I did feel very uncomfortable watching certain moments but traditionally I would've cried during a story like this. The moments felt very confusing and the trauma felt too far from reality to feel tangible. I believe Rivas intended Tamara to feel confused and lost amidst her terribly abusive experiences, meaning it's very easy to label a story as such with negative connotations calling it irresponsible and dangerous. I definitely had my own qualms and had to think it through for a while but when hearing the director talk on the subject I definitely understood what she was trying to accomplish. That being said, it doesn't make for the casual moviegoer but definitely is one for someone looking to see something a little challenging, ready to look for something beneath the surface.

Until next time

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