El Huaso: The Last Rodeo
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A film by Carlo Guillermo Proto. Chile/Canada, 2012, 78 minutes. In English and Spanish with English subtitles.
For classroom use in: Aging, Counseling, Death & Dying, Ethics, Family Relations, Health, Latin American Studies, Mental Health, Psychiatry, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Sociology, Suicide
About the Film
Mental illness and depression are compellingly explored in the story of Gustavo, a successful businessman who he lives in a cozy home surrounded by a loving family. Although his life seems perfect, the 58-year-old Chilean immigrant struggles with an increasingly urgent impulse toward suicide—just like his father before him.
Gustavo is convinced his memory problems and ongoing battle with depression are symptoms of a bigger medical issue: early-onset Alzheimer’s, and he sees suicide as his only option. But his family—including Gustavo’s filmmaker son, Carlo—are determined to fight their hardest to keep Gustavo with them as long as possible.
In this powerful documentary, the filmmaker—who is also Gustavo’s son, Carlo—dissolves the boundary between his personal and professional roles to create a powerful portrait of his family in a time of crisis. Sensitive and delicately balanced, El Huaso: The Last Rodeo is imbued with rare and compelling honesty in its exploration of suicide, familial responsibility as well as psychological and personal freedom.
About the Filmmaker
Raised in Quillota, Chile and Mississauga, Ontario, Carlo Guillermo Proto is a filmmaker whose work focuses on the unique interplay between identity and human experience in relationship to issues of geography, ethnicity and perceived disabilities. El Huaso: The Last Rodeo is his first feature film.
Gustavo is my father and as such I feel an additional responsibility to express his story with integrity and respect. If I didn’t make this film I would be succumbing to a culture of silence and repression, a culture that too many of us have grown up in, where confronting the inevitability of death is silenced. This is not a film that takes a position on suicide. It is an advocacy piece for awakening and self-discovery. Above all, this film aims to encourage others to have the bravery required to face their mortality. The story explores complex issues that aren’t frequently discussed in most families, including my own. I have built awareness around these issues by putting myself, my sisters and mother in the film and asking the questions that are often ignored within families. It is my hope that others will identify with these issues and will be prompted to discuss their past, present, and future within their families, as most struggle with potential illness and inevitable death.
In the Press
“★★★ Recommended! Canadian filmmaker Carlo Guillermo Proto’s documentary highlights the emotional trauma experienced by his father, Gustavo, a 58-year-old Chilean immigrant who carved out a successful business career before becoming obsessed with the concept of suicide after medical tests detected the possible beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease. …El Huaso tells a sensitive and heartbreaking family story.”—Video Librarian
“Carlo Proto’s documentary provides an inside look at both the personal and familial struggles of a man who struggles with suicidal thoughts. …Provocative conversations between the children and father identify the struggle the family expresses in not understanding the struggle, but still wanting to be supportive of their father. …a valid resource for providing some understanding to those struggling with suicidal thoughts. The conversations are provocative, and there is some swearing. This DVD would be a useful resource for projects in sociology, family counseling, mental health, and psychotherapy. Recommended.”—Educational Media Reviews Online
“See this film! Subtle, complex look at the limits of individual choice and social responsibility.”—The Boston Phoenix
“As Gustavo reflects on his past and worries over his future, so too does Carlo. Both are sons who feel the weight of their fathers’ losses. If they see themselves in one another, they also seek not to, their pasts shared and their futures diverging. El Huaso underscores these connections even as it exposes the impossibility of reconciling them.”—PopMatters
“Carlo Proto takes on the delicate task of documenting his father’s pain, and his family’s anger, with remarkable aplomb. The beauty of this doc is that while it is brave enough to tackle tough emotional issues with ruthless honesty, it’s equally up to the task of sitting at a respectful distance from Gustavo, letting the complexity of his character, and situation, speak for itself.”—Torontoist
“Among the 10 best Latino films of the year! The open communication about suicide, a subject that people often remain silent about, is compelling and instructive.”—Remezcla
“One of the hottest docs at HotDocs! El Huaso follows Gustavo Proto, a Chilean immigrant living in Toronto who is contemplating suicide.”—indieWIRE
Festivals & Awards
2015 Western Psychological Association
2013 Cleveland International Film Festival
2013 Guadalajara International Film Festival
2013 The DocYard
2012 Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival
2012 Rendez-Vous du Cinéma Québécois
2012 É Tudo Verdade / It’s All True International Documentary Festival
2012 Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente
2012 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival
2012 Lima International Film Festival
2012 Monterrey International Film Festival
2012 Quebec International Film Festival, Best First Feature Film and Audience Award for Best Canadian-Quebecois Film
2012 Santiago Festival Internacional de Cine
2012 Louisville International Film Festival
2012 Hamptons International Film Festival
2012 Denver International Film Festival
2012 Cork International Film Festival
2012 Vina del Mar International Film Festival
2012 Santiago Festival Cinema B
2011 Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal (RIDM)
Watch the Trailer
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