Revisiting Chile: The Atacama

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In October of 2004, I was inspired to travel to Chile after having seen a fabulous, Dickensian telenovela called “Pampa Ilusión,” which was set in the Atacama desert region of that country, in a saltpeter mining town.

I had a brand new camera – a Canon PowerShot G5 – but I’d not had time to learn all of the ins and outs of the camera. I came home with some interesting shots, but many more with settings that were just plain wrong. Over the years I’ve looked at some of them and been annoyed by the poor results, but never really got the hang of fixing them (or the time). Fortunately, my ability to correct at least in part some of the major flaws has improved, and Photoshop CS6’s become my ally in trying to match the images I recall in my memory with the ones I see on my computer’s screen.

By the way, if you ever have a chance to see “Pampa Ilusión,” I highly recommend it. Filmed on location in the former Humberstone salitrera, it tells the story of a bitter, despotic owner of a mining oficina and the daughter he’d abandoned. The cast, which includes Claudia di Girólamo and Francisco Reyes, Hector Noguera, Tamara Acosta, and Francisco Melo, is first rate.


Zurita and the LadiesOnstage, Mauricio IslasOnstage, Mauricio IslasBackstage with Mauricio IslasOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico City
On the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityOn the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico City
On the set of "Ladrón de corazones," Mexico CityEn FamiliaDinner SceneBlocking RehearsalThe cast of "Una Cena con una Idiota"Tony Pony
Focusing the camerasRene Strickler does the MamboYou sure it goes like this?Gloria and Rene Strickler on the dance floorMentiraholics visit the set of "DKDA"Line prep...

Telenovelas, a set on Flickr.

Telenovelas are one of the world’s most popular forms of television programming. Produced in many Spanish-speaking countries and exported around the world, they offer hours of entertainment.

These photos represent a few of the delightful times that I and a few of my good friends have passed with some of the genre’s actors, watching them work on sets, back stage, in the theater, and on locations.

Montecristo vs Montecristo vs Montecristo

Currently, the Argentine network Telefe is rebroadcasting on its satellite channel one of its most popular recent telenovelas, “Montecristo,” a modern take on the classic Dumas tale. [Note: This version is now available on Dramafever.]

As it aired in 2006, the producers sold the script to several other network producers, from Mexico and Chile. In fact, the resulting productions are close carbon copies of more than the script: the staging, set decor, even soundtrack, are inspired by the original. The version produced in Mexico by TV Azteca was a highly successful retelling of the story – I had the opportunity to see it first and was impressed by many of the production details, particularly as fully realized, rich storytelling has suffered lately in the telenovela industry. With the airing of the original, I can compare the two productions and both clearly have made their mark.

The scene below is one example of the intense connection between the protagonists Laura (played by Paola Krum) and Santiago (played by Pablo Echarri). Their characters have been separated for over ten years, she has believed him dead, and they meet face-to-face for the first time. He runs (for reasons to complex to detail here) and she follows.

The Chilean version, from what I’ve seen, suffers in comparison. Here Laura is played by Ingrid Isensee and Santiago by Gonzalo Valenzuela.

But the Mexican version, starring Silvia Navarro and Diego Olivera offers a very satisfying comparison: whereas Paola and Pablo created a more fragile, wounded pair finding their way back to each other, Silvia and Diego are fiercer, more engaged in the battle of righting wrongs. Both productions pack a lot of emotional impact. Here’s a direct comparison of the Telefe scene.

The best part of the different interpretations is that, while the stories are almost identical on so many levels, the distinctive interpretations of the actors allows both productions to feel fresh. This is an instance where a remake successfully competes with the original.

"Los Exitosos Pells" comes to TVN / TV Chile

Tuesday marked the return to the TV Chile airwaves  (Monday in Chile on TVN) of the incredible actress Claudia di Girólamo in “Los Exitosos Pells.”

Claudia Di Girolamo
Claudia Di Girolamo

She’ll be taking the role of Franca Andrade, head of TV News, originally a male role (Franco) in the Telefe production, and no doubt will make the role her own. She’s been a devout and pure nun (Estúpido Cupido), a grifter (Los Complice$), a doctor forced to impersonate a man (Pampa Ilusión), a ‘shrewish’ manager of a salmon operation (La Fiera), and a merry widow (Viuda Alegre), to name just a few of her many roles, and in each case she is unforgettable. Any opportunity to watch her in action is a cause for celebration and should be recommended viewing for actors in training.

The chileno remake of “Los Exitosos Pells” also features one of the finest ensemble casts working today as those who have come to love the work coming out of TVN will attest. Amparo Noguera is another actress worthy of mention, but the men shine too.

I’m a sucker for a serenade

What is it about someone who surrenders all sense of shame and embarrassment and has the courage and enthusiasm to sing to a loved one that I just adore? Oh, let’s see… Everything! It’s something so personal, and risky – especially if you’re not the best singer – but it reveals how far you’re willing to go to demonstrate your affection. (Of course, if you’re just a glory hog showboating because you fancy yourself, all bets are off!)

Dramas around the world feature the occasional musical interlude, the telenovela’s serenata, and when well done they are so very charming. One particularly amusing and tender number is the scene from “The First Shop of the Coffee Prince,” (커피프린스 1호점) in which Choi Han-gyul, played by Gong Yoo (공유) exuberantly sings a wake-up song to his beloved Go Eun-chan, played by Yoon Eun Hye (윤은혜). He’s playful and sincere, and oh yeah, adorable.

Gong Yoo in "Coffee Prince"

Here’s the original version of the song that he’s reprising: “I Love You” (“너를 사랑해”), as sung by Han Dong-joon (한동준).

[audio ]