Cinema as Protest: Our Review of ‘One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train’

Posted in Movies,, What's Streaming? by - September 08, 2021
Cinema as Protest: Our Review of ‘One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train’

Ignacio Aguero’s One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train probably has allegories and political meanings deeper than the ones I can grasp, but on a base level, it’s a Chilean woman, Alicia Vega, planning a crash course of cinematic history to children living in a small town. She recreates early film technology, like the carousels showing someone on different stages of riding a horse. Spinning the toy around, a series of static images become one that moves. The camera zooms into the peephole, recreating the wonder that these children felt. This is how people should teach each other about movies instead of the gatekeeping methods that I’ve indulged in.

One Hundred is also one of the best clip show documentaries around, showing, appropriately enough, classic animation films and the deeper cuts of the genre during the golden Disney days. And it juxtaposes those clips with images of children reacting to them. They’re smiling at something they’re seeing for the first time. I’m risking coming off as a cornball on whatever screen you’re reading this review on. But there’s nothing better than a human face. And specifically that of an image of children experiencing joy. Viewers can see especially that these children don’t have privileges. They’re not like children who live in better countries and eras like ones here and today.

The world is a large place, another corny truism that One Hundred handles with gravity and sincerity. Vega’s syllabus of films lets her show the children the difference between fiction and non-fiction. And here the transition comes from animation to documentary, and by that I mean documentaries of the anti-Pinochet protests. This seems inappropriate until it reminds viewers that these protests were a reality for Chile during that era. This came out the year that the international community pressured Pinochet to hold elections. And those elections would eventually kick him out. And it’s a miracle that documentaries against him saw the light of day.

Part of the reason why Vega was exposing these children to cinema is to let them dream. Corny truism number three. Aguero dedicates a chunk of this documentary to interviews, as he should. When he asks the children what they want to be, they dream of becoming mechanics and soldiers and doctors. It’s difficult to get, say, a medical degree anywhere, and presumably, it’s doubly difficult to achieve that in rural Chile. Any education, even one about cinema, is a baby step into making those dreams into actual plans. And it makes viewers hope that their dreams come true.

One Hundred Children Waiting for a Train is the third film from the Spanish world that I’ve seen through OVID. The platform is also running a retrospective on Aguero’s work, which everyone should sign up to see.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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