Mischief, satire and personal memoir mix with a weird little shiver of fear in this quasi-autobiographical piece by Chilean artist and film-maker Camila José Donoso, which uses a combination of digital video and Super 8. It stars her grandmother, Josefina Ramirez, playing herself, or a version of herself – the “Nona” of the title.
The opening scenes show her leaving Santiago, apparently to recuperate after a cataract operation but also needing to make a quick exit after some not-entirely-specified act of vandalism she has committed against someone, perhaps an ex-boyfriend. She fetches up in a long-neglected second home in the coastal town of Pichilemu, which she remembers buying during the Allende era.
Soon it becomes clear that her relations with her neighbours are not entirely calm, and then some wildfires break out. The fact that she has already shown us how adept she is at making Molotov cocktails – a skill learned in her younger days during the anti-Pinochet resistance – puts her in the frame.
Ramirez’s Nona is an intriguing character. She likes a drink; she likes a laugh; she likes to sing and dance; and she certainly likes a cigarette. There’s an amusing shot of her prostrate on the operating table, enjoying a quick smoke before the doctors tackle her cataract. With her hairdo and glasses, Nona looks like an older version of the free-spirited, sensual heroine of Sebastian Lélio’s film Gloria, played by Paulina Garcia and by Julianne Moore in the remake – a divorcee looking for love in modern-day Chile and like everyone else trying to forget about the bad old days.
Nona is a little like Gloria, but maybe she isn’t trying to move on; maybe she is still conducting a defiant guerrilla war against all the respectable householders that were complicit in the old regime. A sly and subversive film.
• Nona: If They Soak Me, I’ll Burn Them is available on Mubi from 2 April.
Source: The Guardian