Chile From Within

Nehoc Davis, Josh Cohen and Microfilia at Santiago International Film Festival (SANFIC) 2007

Posted in chile, Chile culture, Chile film, microfilia, Santiago, transantiago, Viva Chile by tomasdinges on August 13, 2007

As a small child vacationing in Vina del Mar, Chile, bus rides were the highlight, especially when surrounded by strange people speaking in a language you couldn’t understand. And then imagine you are only 4 ft tall hanging onto the horizontal steel bar as the bus driver accelerates for green lights, whips around corners and maxes out their hydraulic brakes with quick exasperating releases of pressure for a possible passenger or a particularly daring car cutting in front, the feeling is like that of one on a rollercoaster, or a moving version of the monkey bars (except in this case you just chicken fight with the shrunken old lady whose head is unfortunately at the level of your sneakered feet).

One swings from left to right, front and back, until your arms can’t hold on anymore.

Similar experiences were to be had on the yellow micros of Santiago, which hurtled at incredulous speeds in amazingly poorly maintained buses down Providencia towards Santiago centro. Their shocks were worn out making the bus sway and lean with even subtle steering adjustments. One futily looked out the windows, only to encounter scratches insignias and cracks. Although one time the window was clean as I hurtled around a roundabout, or circle, looking out the

window to a girl doing the same thing from a bus running parallel around the curves. Our eye contact and smile at 40 miles an hour, in synchronous and vulnerable passage on those buses, made me think I was in love. Other times a time buses broke down, warning passengers of their engines impending demise by emitting that foul smell uniquely associated with the heat generated by unlubricated metal rubbing together.

Glaring fluorescent lights cast contrast (creating intimate spaces) upon dingy interiors and tired workers, drunk revelers from Avda. Suecia, young wealthy girls venturing from hillside homes to the flats of the dangerous and daring party neighborhood of Barrio Brasil or the club Blondie, flaites, recently released (escaped?) poet-bards from the looney bin (la Perrera I think) in Cajon del Maipo and a friendly manicurist from Maipu with diva-like jet black bangs who gets off at my stop.

Microfilia Sanfic 2007


Josh Cohen, the director of Microfilia, take viewers on similar turns in his docu-fiction of life on the yellow micro-buses, or Micros, of Santiago. Only someone as consistently desquiciado, absurd and observant as this 11 year resident of Santiago could do a film that does justice to the extremes of the former Chilean bus system, premiering at the Santiago International Film Festival Wednesday, 22:25 pm, Thursday August 16th, at 6:20 pm, at the Showcase Parque Arauco and Saturday, August 18th at 10:35 pm. He is also a cameraman by trade and so the sensation of hurtling buses through the darkness is aptly captured. But don’t believe me. You can also believe the La Nacion article of Santiago, which previously included this film as one of the top ten reasons to go to the Sanfic festival.

A product of Washington DC public schools and a politically-minded family, Josh came to Chile in 1996 inspired by Rodrigo Rojas, the 18 year old photographer and child of exile from Wilson High School who was burnt alive by Chilean police when he was covering a protest in 1986.

“The american Nehoc Davis suffered a true shock upon arriving to Santiago de Chile in 1996 to see the yellow “micros” barrelling through Santiago streets at unbelievable speeds. He knew immediately that he would make a film that reflected this craziness, which was confirmed when he got on a bus driven by a 15 year old girl. Initially developed with the now-deceased screenwriter Jaime Capo, this film is a mix of documentary and fiction, filmed with a minimal budget in 2003, when Transantiago had not yet revolutionized the public transportation system in the Chilean capital. This work documents a night in the life of Isabel, the 15 year daughter and niece of bus drivers who learned to drive when she was eight years old. While she is driving a curious range of nighttime passengers travel with her, as on any night in Santiago, as she battles the regular attacks of the “Correcaminos,” the most dangerous driver in Santiago. Its Jim Jarmusch’s Night On Earth meets Third World Globalization.”

Also, lets not forget about the excellent performance by actor Julio Briceno, star of various famously funny commercials in Chile, like the following:


12 Responses

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  1. […] From Within recalls his experiences on the speeding public buses of Santiago. He also writes about a film about these buses called Microfilia, which takes the audience along for the wild ride. Share […]

  2. Chileno said, on August 14, 2007 at 3:25 am

    T-bone, any chance the version being screened this week in Santiago is with English subtitles? If you don’t know, who do I talk to?

  3. tomasdinges said, on August 14, 2007 at 3:48 am

    I believe so, but Im not a hundred percent sure.

    Talk to Josh, at, or get in contact with the SANFIC organizers.

  4. Vinkoval said, on August 14, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Looks like Microfilia is going to be a great film. I hope Microfilia shows up online sometime. I’d love to see it.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to experience the new Transsantiago, but I do remember the micros show in the film. It’s crazy to think that I got to the point where I could fall asleep in those things. All that moving around put me right out.

  5. Chileno said, on August 14, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    I got an email from someone who said the premier has changed to Wednesday at 22:25 in Showcase Parque Arauco. (tomorrow).

  6. tomasdinges said, on August 14, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Correct…The text has been changed accordingly.

  7. Chileno said, on August 14, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    It’s playing both days?

  8. tomasdinges said, on August 15, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Its playing all three days as scheduled. See the updated scheduling at Apparently last year the festival received twice as many visitors as expected.

  9. travelchile said, on August 16, 2007 at 12:42 am

    sounds like a good movie, I might go check it out…maybe we’ll all see each other there 🙂

    I posted the information you emailed me in my blog, hope you don’t mind. if you do mine let me know and I’ll take it down right away!

  10. tomasdinges said, on August 23, 2007 at 1:48 am


    When did you live in Chile…tons of people sleep on the buses…it kind of rocks you to sleep… just find yourself a nice pillow.

    I actually heard that one of the complaints about Transantiago buses was that seats were very slippery, so commuters, ie dog-tired workers, would slip down in their seats, preventing them from sleeping on their long rides.

  11. travelchile said, on August 23, 2007 at 5:10 am

    That complaint about TranSantiago seats being slippery is true. It didn’t stop me from falling asleep though…I just happened to wake up on the floor of the micro.

  12. Gabriel said, on September 4, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Hi greetings to Chile from County Kerry in Ireland I recently posted a Chilean themed item on my blog

    I hope that some of you will drop by and say hello.

    Greetings to all Chilean friends from Ireland


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