Directed By: Juan Carlos Valdivia
Written By: Juan Carlos Valdivia
Produced By: Gabriela Maire
Cast: Ninón del Castillo, Pascual Loayza, Nicolás Fernández, Juan Pablo Koria, Mariana Vargas, Viviana Condori
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 108 minutes
Release Date: August 20, 2009 (Bolivia)
Review Date: November 2, 2010
Sometimes a film comes along that shows you despite a weak and bleak script, a movie can still be stunning. Southern District earns this distinction. The film takes place in a family home. The family literally never leaves the compound. And ironically, the sex-crazed son, Patricio (Juan Pablo Koria), rarely leaves his bedroom.
The film casts a light on the caste system in Bolivia. Wilson (Pascual Loayza), the family servant and caretaker, puts up with quite a lot of lip from matriarch Carola (Ninón del Castillo). Carola’s husband has left the family, leaving her to run the show, with the help of Wilson of course. The children range in ages, but all have quite a mocking bond with Carola as they go through day-to-day activities.
Nothing pivotal happens in the film by way of major conflict, but rather shows how a social change in class takes shape. This upper-class family is running out of money as a shift in social classes takes hold of Bolivia.
Wilson is a peculiar character in the film. He clearly assumes a paternal role in the lives of the children, even the grown ones, leaving the viewer to wonder if Wilson has a life outside of this house. Eventually you do learn of Wilson’s life outside of the compound, which is the pinpoint in the shift of the social status.
What I greatly enjoyed about the narrative-lacking film was the use of color to portray the different classes and then the eventual fall of the upper-class family. Everything is pristine and white, except for the servants, who all wear black throughout the film. As the family starts to lose its footing on the social ladder, you see black slowly start making its way into the wardrobe. In essence, the color provides the extra narrative the film is missing.
The cinematography is beautiful, even when in a trapped space. When young Andres (Nicolás Fernández) escapes and goes to the roof of the home, the scene is exquisite. It leaves you wondering if Andres is truly running away from the tragedies in the house or simply just for a better view of the world.
Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.