Carlos Araya Díaz’s El Viaje Espacial is a unique trip through Chile’s bus stops and society, which weaves social dilemmas, overheard conversations and beautiful tableau shots into a vital reflection on migration.

Weaving together social dilemmas, overheard conversations and well-composed tableau shots, El Viaje Espacial (Space Journey, 2020) is a unique excursion through Chilean bus stops and society. In its observational style, it uncovers an unexpected layer of authenticity, with wide-shots granting space to reflect on distant conversations that are being observed. As the viewer advances through a collection of bus stops, from the Atacama Desert, to the streets of Santiago, to the southern-most and desolate regions, the documentary uncovers a far-reaching portrait of Chile and its people, their temperament and contradictions.

In his trip through Chilean society, the film’s director Carlos Araya Díaz draws the audience into one theme in particular: immigration. Here is where the film finds its purpose as it shines a light on the issues around immigration and xenophobia within Chile’s current social-political climate. At moments there are overheard conversations demonstrating the extent of the discrimination these diverse migrant groups receive, especially the Haitian community which the film focuses on. It is estimated that since 2013 more than 100,000 Haitians have arrived to Chile escaping political turmoil and natural disasters, quickly becoming one of the country’s largest migrant communities. Even though many of those who arrive are educated and have worked professionally in their respective fields, from headmasters to doctors, in Chile they encounter a barrier of rampant discrimination.

The film attempts to confront many misplaced and ignorant misconceptions. One poignant scene explores this contradiction clearly, as the camera focuses on the tanned white skin of a group of beachside tourists discriminating against migrant workers. The following shots show a young Haitian woman cleaning a bus stop nearby, presumably the same one used by the tourists. This juxtaposition, albeit straightforward, challenges a common ignorance that populates xenophobic discourses.

Instances of solidarity are given equal weight, such as migrant and indigenous solidarity marches, highlighting the similarities rather than the differences between people who were born in Chile and those who have arrived. This theme has been explored in other recent films like Perro Bomba (2019), which mixes fiction and documentary. However, El Viaje Espacial’s message resonates beyond Chile with its clear appeal to the universal human right of migration. In this broader sense, the film asks the audience to ponder one key question: aren’t we all just trying to get somewhere?

Where to Watch: Available on Vimeo VOD in United States and Chile