The Lifeguard

El salvavidas

“On these beaches, the lifeguards have no insurance, sun block, megaphones, binoculars, nothing. They can only work with their talent.” — Maite Alberdi

Director: Maite Alberdi
Year: 2011
Country: Chile
Running time: 67 mins

Producer: Paola Castillo
Photography: Pablo Valdés
Editor: Alejandro Fernández
Sound: Mario Puerto, Roberto Espinoza
In Spanish with English subtitles

With: Mauricio Rodríguez, Jean Pierre Palacios, Lucas Acuña

Festivals: Amsterdam Documentary 2011

Filmmaker Maite Alberdi’s portrait of a summer lifeguard at work on a popular Chilean beach could hardly be more telling or more oddly moving. And her picture of the beach and its denizens is so observant that you’ll be brushing the sand from your shoes as you leave the theatre. With his deep tan and dreadlocks, Mauricio looks like a chilled-out surfer, but in reality he’s about as cool as a parking warden, and just as popular with the holidaymakers. Will Mauricio turn a blind eye to their barbecues? Never. He keeps a watch on the other lifeguards too, none too impressed by the rescues chalked up by the next guy down the beach. Surely ordering people out of the sea when they stray from the designated swimming area takes more nerve than playing the hero when they go under? With Mauricio’s agreement, Alberdi miked and followed him, and the young admirer who hangs on his every word, for several days. She’s shaped what she saw and heard into a character study as concise and poignant as a great short story.

NZIFF STAFF PICK: Bill Gosden