Hot Docs 2024: Qs à la mode with… Alfredo Pourailly De La Plaza (The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine)

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In The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine, director Alfredo Pourailly De La Plaza profiles a Chilean son determined to help make precious-metal-mining work — and life — easier for his aging father. We posed our Qs à la mode to Alfredo, and here’s what he shared!


If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Inspiring, moving, surprising.

I decided to make this film because: After working for many years in Tierra del Fuego, in this magical and isolated place, I came across this particular incredible and unique story of a gold digger, Toto, and his son Jorge, with themes such as death, loneliness, union, father-and-son relationship, solidarity and overcoming all the obstacles that may exist. It was a story with a great challenge, difficult to believe in, but that could have a happy ending, and that attracted me a lot… to be able to portray a story where dreams can be achieved.

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: At the beginning, I was surprised by the idea that a young teenager from a rural town, who hasn’t finished school, was capable of undertaking a great engineering project like building [this] machine. That was the moment I thought, “Here we have a potential film.” What surprised and captivated me most about Toto and Jorge’s story is their ability to overcome all the challenges they face in their daily lives, and in life in general. They have a way of looking at life that stands out for its positive vision of things and I find this extremely inspiring.

The toughest part of the shoot was: When Toto, the main character, suffered a stroke during the shooting. This was a very complicated moment because Toto almost died, and we were faced with an extreme situation where we focused all our actions on saving his life. We were in the mine, 30km from town, with no phone signal. I thought Toto was dying in my arms. Fortunately, we made it to the hospital in time and Toto was able to recover.

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: It’s difficult to choose just one scene. I was filming for seven years with Toto and Jorge, so there are many moments that I was able to capture. The end of the film is one of the great moments. Many years of filming, dreaming and waiting for that moment to happen, and to be able to be there and capture it, it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting moments I experienced during the filming.

My most invaluable piece of doc-making equipment was/is: The luminous lenses chosen for the shoot allowed me to shoot in very intimate spaces, where the light was dim, illuminated by a candle or the light of dawn. For me, it was important to work with natural and incidental light, not to include any supporting light, with the idea of not intervening the real scene. Working with luminous lenses was something fundamental that allowed me to achieve the look I was looking for.

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: Don’t get frustrated when the things you want to shoot don’t turn out the way you imagine, and accept that the story you are shooting cannot be conditioned in its whole. You have to be open to include elements that you never imagined and that are part of the story of the people you are filming.


Want to check out Alfredo’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!


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