Ignacio Agüero is an architect turned film-maker who cannot help being an architect as he struggles to stop being a film-maker. A tough but productive battle. Como me da la gana is his most honest declaration, made in 1985, where he goes to individual directors to ask them why they make cinema and for what purpose, without getting a clear response from anyone, and without Agüero himself knowing why he is making this film-question. As an architect, space slips into almost all his projects; sometimes it is an area of Santiago that disappears and buries the last of his shipwrecked souls in Aquí se construye, at others it is a village populated with more memories than inhabitants, as in La mamá de mi abuela le contó a mi abuela, and at other times it is that no-man’s land that constitutes the threshold of the front door in El otro día. As a film-maker, Ignacio Agüero declares that he dreams of achieving a film in which the film-maker disappears and it is the film that constructs itself. Self-architecture, then. The solution arrives when he puts a cheap but effective scriptwriter known as ‘chance’ to work. In “a film made about the people who ring the doorbell of my house”, the Chilean director decides to turn his gaze back on anyone who calls at his home, and manages to show us two worlds: the inside world with its whimsical lights and dense shadows, and the outside world of a Santiago sketched in the best way: involuntarily.
Agüero makes militant cinema, sometimes aimed at politics through close-ups: No olvidar (1984) about the exhumation of bodies that had disappeared in the furnaces of Lonquén, which he released under the name of Pedro Meneses for fear of reprisals, and El diario de Agustín (2008) about the involvement and impunity of El Mercurio in the years of horror and its silence even into the present day, a film that has been censored and not shown on national Chilean television. In the years that glimpsed democracy, Agüero was unable to escape from the shadows of the past with his cinema, and politics once again took up its long-standing background cameo in Cien niños esperando un tren (1988), a wonderful look once again at the babblings of the seventh art through a film workshop for children led by Agüero’s own teacher, Alicia Vega. It praises the teacher, praises the cinema, once again with the years of terror as the chilling backdrop, this time displaying their impunity for the first time. As one of the interviewees in El diario de Agustín recognises in a kind of mantra: “The dictatorship wanted everything FRO-ZEN, FRO-ZEN”.
And from the cold, Antarctic this time, Ignacio Agüero brings us perhaps his most metaphysical film yet: Sueños de hielo (ice dreams). It follows the story of a happy ending, the uphill Atlantic crossing of a boat transporting a large iceberg from Chile to the Universal Exposition of Seville to exhibit all its magic and azure indifference there. A poetical and political journey once again, as all his cinema is. The most unerring member of the team, the sergeant with the Polish surname of Papuzinsky, only throws one dart in the entire crossing: “you don’t have to believe what you see”. And meanwhile, the ship travels, and the voyage bears witness to the oldest chemical testimony: families melt through the same combustion processes as ice. Perhaps for that reason, inevitably for that reason alone, all our dreams are made of ice.