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SpIFF 2020: ‘Wolf House’ an exercise in originality

Looking ahead to some of the films that will screen at the 2020 Spokane International Film Festival:

One of the things that a film programmer looks for is originality. At least, that's what I do. If a film wows me with a certain unexpected quality, I immediately put it on the "maybe" list.

One such film that made the final cut at SpiFF 2020, which runs from Feb. 28 through March 6, is the stop-motion animated feature "The Wolf House" (which will screen at 3:30 p.m. Saturday Saturday at the Magic Lantern Theater).

Based loosely on a true story involving German immigrant colony in Chile run by a man named Paul Schafer, "The Wolf House" — co-directed by Chilean filmmakers Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León — tells the story of a young girl who escapes a religious community and finds refuge, of a sort, in a house in the woods. She looks after a pair of pigs even as a wolf lurks at the door.

But that brief description does very little to give potential viewers an idea of just how haunting "The Wolf House" really is. Underscoring everything we see is that fact that the filmmakers hail from a country that, during the Pinochet regime, saw widespread, government-supported torture and murder.

As the program for the Film at Lincoln Center series points out, "Using stop-motion techniques and combining elements of various fables, photography, drawing, sculpture, and stage performance, Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León have created a nightmarish shapeshifter of a film."

And as Hollywood Reporter critic Jonathan Holland wrote, "Behind all the tech wizardry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that 'The Wolf House' is tragic, the story of a young girl who is painfully learning, as did the inhabitants of Schafer’s colony, that sometimes a house can be the terrifying opposite of a home."

For tickets to SpIFF 2020, click hereNote: Festival passes are no longer available.

Personal disclaimer: I serve as a volunteer programmer for the Spokane International Film Festival, and I am an unpaid member of the festival's board of directors. I've attended every festival, as either a reporter or as a fan, since its inception in 1999.