Documentary film in development.

Project Synopsis

‘The House is Still Dark’ is set in Alal, an isolated Mayangna indigenous village inside the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in northern Nicaragua, where the indigenous population are struggling with a mental disorder called ‘Grisi Siknis’ while also facing an imposing threat of deforestation and land grabbing from outsiders.

The film follows 3 different groups in the local community as they deal with experiences of trauma and fear from recent outbreaks of Grisi Siknis and violent land invasions by non-indigenous; the teenagers affected by Grisi Siknis and the local nurse who assists them, the evangelicals who try to provide spiritual protection and an adult group of vigilantes roaming the forest in an effort to prevent non-indigenous from grabbing their land.

There seems to be a link between Grisi Siknis and the looming threat from the people and corporations encroaching on the indigenous community and their culture. After decades of deforestation, the indigenous people are directly threatened in their living conditions due to their dependency on forest resources for subsistence as well as cultural identity. Other believe that the explanation is to be found in the spiritual world, and underneath it all we hear the stories of a desperate community where teenage girls are subjected to abuse and harassment by teenage boys who struggle to cope with the hardships.

The film unfolds with a group of teenage girls who are seated in the twilight in front of the local nurse. We see them being tested in their blood pressure, vision and physical mobility. Everyone seems to know the whole procedure, and a clear sound of medical instruments give us a sense of ritual. At the same moment, at the local church, the preacher put his hands on the forehead of a woman who has her eyes shut. We hear him praying and asking the help of God for healing that woman. From outside the church, everything seems calm and silence although the sounds of insects in the jungle give us a certain sense of strident noise when the night arrives. Not far from the church, a man counts how many shotgun cartridges has in his bag and put them on a table. We see him with his son who observes him with curiosity and gravity. 

The film moves forward with daily activities that are, in one way or another, affected by certain lack of energy, stillness and worry: some of the teenage girls lies alone on a hamac; a vigilante shaves himself before leaving his house with his rifle on his shoulder; the preacher talks with some people about how many hectares have recently been clear-cut by outsiders; a nurse keeps organised and clean the medical instruments while writing a medical record. During the development of the film, we are, as viewers, affected by a sense of strangeness, and at the same time, intrigued by scenes that give us the impression that something went wrong in the recent past.

Immersed in the Jungle - Sound Manifest

When I do field recordings, my goal is to produce a universe of sound, that represents the feel and touch of an experience. Not just an accurate reproduction of the scenes or events taking place. I always try to capture the sounds of the environment, in a way that enforces an inner feeling, connected to the films story. As the camera lens, zooming in, flying above, going behind, framing reality. That means going beyond recording the dialog and capturing the ambiences passively, taking a more active role in the field, making or ‘playing’ sounds, looking for tonal and emotional qualities, hitting tree logs, bouncing branches, and setting up ‘scenes’ trying to twist the natural environment into something personal. Something more than the object or situation that a given sound represents. Being a music composer makes me think of sound in musical terms. Doing field recordings is for me, the first important step in my compositional process. 

Director Felipe Roa Pilar (DK/CL)
Producer Thor Hampus Bank & Emil Johnsen (DK)
Editor Esben Blaakilde (DK)
Cinematographer Jorge Roa Pilar (CL)
Sound Design/Score Patricio Fraile & Simon Erdmann (DK)
Color Grading Jian Zhi Zhang (DK)
Production Company GotFat Productions
Co-production Company Mimbre Producciones (CL)