I’m not necessarily 100% on board with the choices that Vee Bravo makes in his feature length debut Primera, but my reservations are probably more like nitpicks. Let’s start with the positive stuff though. His strong suit is street videography, capturing the occasional tensions taking place in his home city of New York. This is perfect for him as he captures the year long protests taking place in 2019-2020 in the cities of his birth country of Chile.
But Bravo excels more in things that are part of documentaries that are steps away from that skill set. Interviews are an inescapable part of documentaries. But through these, he shares the struggles of the individuals within those protests, more than other examples of the genre. One of these individuals is Felipe, a member of the titular Primera Lina, protecting protesters from police brutality. He shares what it’s like to lose an eye because of this work.
Bravo chooses Felipe and two other activists to focus on. These other two include Angy and Camila, musicians who perform songs that get more subversive as the protests get stronger. It’s understandable for Bravo to give smaller spotlights for more minor players, reflecting the protests’ objectives in going beyond than just the unfair transit hikes that began the movement in the first place. But then he shows people who seem as important as the big three and never show them again. He also tackles more subjects like COVID’s effects on the movement. Regardless of the film’s comprehensiveness, for better or worse, it clearly argues its points, even to viewers like me who are the choir he’s kind of preaching to. Yes, the political class did take advantage of the first waves of COVID to suppress people. And yes, the fight for equality in Chile isn’t over.
Catch Primera on Hot Docs on May 5, 2022.
- Release Date: 4/29/2022