Julio Jorquera

JulioJorquera.jpg.

Julio Jorquera’s Artistic Film Direction Exposes Latin American Social Issues

Feature photo: Julio Jorquera is an award-winning, self-taught Chilean film director, scriptwriter, and showrunner. Photo by Daniel Gil. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.


Julio Jorquera is an award-winning, self-taught Chilean film director, scriptwriter, and showrunner. In the search of bringing life and light to his art, Jorquera has found himself with film direction that exposes Latin American social issues. He’s honed his craft, reaching millions of people worldwide through Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. He’s created a unique film direction that explores human nature in a beautiful manner with a vivid aesthetic full of colorful and energetic music, photography, and art.

Julio Jorquera  is an award-winning, self-taught Chilean film director, scriptwriter, and showrunner. His fascination for visual stories started when he was a child. From a young age, he understood that his way of communicating with the world was through images. It’s something that comes naturally to him, and it’s his way of expressing himself in an easier manner than with writing or the spoken word.


Communicating through images has little explanation because he feels it comes with him intuitively, just like music. For him, it’s always been about finding his path through images and trusting his instincts. When it was time to go to college, he chose journalism as his career path but then found himself fascinated with filmmaking.

“When I finished high school, we were coming out of a dictatorship. Those were the first years of Chile’s democracy. So, filmmaking was lost. It was like being an astronaut. There was no connection,” Jorquera said. “There were certain filmmaking schools recently opened. Schools you didn’t even know existed. So, I studied journalism, and there was a filmmaking career. Somehow, I started making the link with filmmaking.”

When he was in college, Jorquera took a course on the history of filmmaking, which was his first theoretical approach to filmmaking. That was when he started learning about the process of creating a film while understanding how he worked creatively by developing his self-taught methodology.

 BabyBandito6.jpg. Julio Jorquera, when “Baby Bandito” was filmed in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.]
Julio Jorquera, when “Baby Bandito” was filmed in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

This self-taught approach was born out of relying on his visceral and sensorial convictions. It’s about trial and error to understand what he likes and discover what works best for the story. It’s also about allowing the story to surprise him throughout the process.


On the technical side, he relies heavily on the Internet to learn, read, watch films, and research. He allows his curiosity to roam free and merge with his intuition to find whatever story he’s working on.

“Many times, the processes are like this: there’s an idea. Then, you have to adapt, and in that adaptation process, you sometimes get frustrated. To avoid that, I somehow prefer to be surprised and go through finding myself,” Jorquera said. I always allow space for improvisation to happen, which is something I feel makes each artwork different, whether it’s a product for television or for filmmaking.”

 BabyBandito4.jpg. Julio Jorquera on set filming “Baby Bandito.” Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Julio Jorquera on set filming “Baby Bandito.” Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

For Jorquera, his filmmaking is his way of looking at the world. The way he looks at everyday life. He understands his film direction as more than an art. It’s a craft. He doesn’t like defining himself as an artist because he’s always looking for something. He’s in a constant pursuit of generating questions instead of answers. Defining himself as an artist or labeling himself means he’s finished a cycle.

“I think I’m always experimenting with something and searching for something. That’s what moves me. I don’t feel like an artist. It’s difficult for me to feel like that, but I live like that without noticing it,” Jorquera said.

Diving Deep Into Social Issues

In that experimentation, Jorquera found his deep interest in creating filmmaking that speaks about social issues because of his genuine curiosity in understanding human nature. He enjoys comprehending why people make decisions that can trigger a tragedy or a trip to a certain place worth exploring.


With social issues being the base of his works, Jorquera’s general process relies on first seeing something: a scene, an object, or a sensation. Then, he proceeds to start searching for something – most likely a story – from that scene, object, or sensation. That’s one of the ways that his process begins. He can also listen to someone’s story or rely on his personal experience as inspiration. And the last way of starting his process is when he’s asked to do a story for a client.


This last option’s process differs from the rest. He’s given a story and challenges himself with carrying out the project and making it his own. In order to do this, he first needs to find a point of view.

 BabyBandito7.jpg. One of the scenes from the episodes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito” with actors Pablo Macaya and Carmen Zabala. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
One of the scenes from the episodes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito” with actors Pablo Macaya and Carmen Zabala. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

“Making it mine in the sense that I’m interested in that story. Not only because it’s work but because I want to say something. There’s something interesting to say. Something that connects with me,” Jorquera said. “Fortunately, with the projects I’ve done, I’ve had instances where they somehow connect and have a message.”

With each project he takes on, which lately has been mostly series for global streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Jorquera has been able to discover the pieces’ DNA. That means that as a film director, he must carry out the stories and direct their path. He understands it as a long trip where he’s navigating and overcoming obstacles to make decisions that take him to a certain point, whether that’s working with different audiovisual formats, including feature films, television shows, series, or documentaries.


Finding the DNA for his pieces means that he relies on his intuition to determine key elements such as music, photography, and art. That’s quite present in two of his latest works, which include Netflix’s series “ Baby Bandito ” and Amazon Prime Video’s series “ Noticia De Un Secuestro ” (News Of A Kidnapping).

Colorfully Directing “Baby Bandito”

“Baby Bandito” was one of those projects where he was asked to participate in the story. Jorquera was one of the three directors for the show and was drawn to work on it because of the story’s plot.

“It’s a story about a character that overcomes himself in a territory where opportunities seem scarce. There’s a character that feels he can have an opportunity. Even if it’s in a politically incorrect manner, he finds a possibility,” Jorquera said. “I found that interesting, and it was also a project with the ambition of a very big audience. Fortunately, it happened that way.”

Luckily, that happened for “Baby Bandito’s” team when they landed for two weeks straight as Netflix’s number-one series in the non-English category in February. For Jorquera, that means they pressed the right keys so that the story connected with millions of people from around the world, even if it was a show that touched on a delicate subject with a very deep drama.


The series is inspired by Chile’s “biggest heist of the century,” which happened in 2014 at the Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in Santiago. Chilean actor Nicolás Contreras played Kevin Tapia, the character inspired by Kevin Olguín, who was one of the gang’s members who carried out the heist in 2014.

“In our region there's a certain interest in looking for projects based on real stories and cases that are well-known. They have an impact, at least in the country. Then the series has to navigate alone,” Jorquera said. “But regionally, it’s about establishing a well-known case because people know it exists, and it’s a hook for you to see what it’s all about.”

BabyBandito2.jpg. Behind the scenes with actors Francisca Armstrong and Nicolás Contreras from one of the episodes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito.” Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz
Behind the scenes with actors Francisca Armstrong and Nicolás Contreras from one of the episodes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito.” Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz

To make “Baby Bandito” stand out from other robbery series and films, Jorquera said they first appropriated a character and set its point of view. That character was the Baby Bandito, who was part of the heist in real life. His peculiarity was being caught for posting on social media his luxurious lifestyle after the robbery.


For Jorquera, it was also about exploring how social media plays an important role in people’s lives. Then, it was about allowing the viewer to observe how the story explores the consequences of a robbery in the lives of its characters.


Taking the audience on that trip also relied heavily on the series’ overall aesthetic, both visually and musically. That meant finding a way that the story didn’t feel sad because of its profound drama with violence and crime.

BabyBandito3.jpg. Behind the scenes with actors Pablo Macaya, Nicolás Contreras, and Carmen Zabala from one of the episodes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito.” Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Behind the scenes with actors Pablo Macaya, Nicolás Contreras, and Carmen Zabala from one of the episodes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito.” Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

“It was a delicate subject. Precisely escaping the awareness of feeling like a poor person in a poor place or feeling sad in a sad place. It’s about working those counterpoints,” Jorquera said. “Bringing light [into the spaces], but the spaces always having character and not being unreal.”

To achieve those counterpoints, Jorquera was very interested in making the series luminous in spite of the tragedy, blood, and bullets. He wanted it to portray the duality of tragedy and light through its photography, bright colors in the art, and energetic music that’s always sounding.

Finding “Baby Bandito’s” Musical and Aesthetic Tones

“Baby Bandito’s” soundtrack is heavy on reggaeton. The music selection was a more collaborative process, which Jorquera explained began from the script. Afterwards, there was a montage process to try songs and music to find the series’ tone. It was a collaboration between Netflix’s team and Fabula’s team, which was the Chilean production house behind the project.

Reggaeton and street graffiti play key roles in the series' aesthetics. There’s a very strong relationship of natural coexistence between reggaeton, graffiti, and poor communities.

“This [reggaeton] belongs to us and it’s something you can’t escape. When you go out on the streets, there’s reggaeton. A car drives by and reggaeton is sounding,” Jorquera said. “I think it was an exercise on how to dose the reggaeton. How you paint on the canvas. What color to place on top and there you generate an equation.”

For Jorquera, that equation is synonymous with reacting to what he’s seeing. It’s about understanding what fits perfectly as if it were a clothing piece: it fits you well, or it doesn’t. Reggaeton was that perfect fit for “Baby Bandito” because it’s the way people from vulnerable communities express themselves, along with graffiti.

BabyBandito.jpg. Julio Jorquera with actors Nicolás Contreras and Lukas Vergara filming “Baby Bandito” in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Julio Jorquera with actors Nicolás Contreras and Lukas Vergara filming “Baby Bandito” in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

All of those elements came together for a number one series on Netflix that reached a huge audience with “Chilean Spanish,” which generates a sense of confidence in Chile’s stories according to Jorquera.

“You’re always told that series in Spanish won’t be as watched as series in English. Somehow, those imposed paradigms are broken and that only helps to have more series,” Jorquera said. “For there to be more confidence in making a series and for these series to connect. It doesn’t have anything to do with how you talk, but with the story itself. With the story’s curiosity.”

BabyBandito5.jpg. Behind the scenes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito” with actors Nicolás Contreras, Carmen Zabala, and Lukas Vergara. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Behind the scenes directed by Julio Jorquera for “Baby Bandito” with actors Nicolás Contreras, Carmen Zabala, and Lukas Vergara. Photo by Netflix. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

That story’s curiosity heavily relies on portraying Latin America in all of its facets: beauty, exuberance, a rich culture, violence, crime, and a constant struggle to be resilient from the region’s harsh social realities. It’s a Latin America that survives in the struggle.


One that Jorquera defines as an exotic region with happiness and sadness coexisting. A region full of hope where anything can happen, but it’s quite fragile. It’s also a region that has been long stereotyped in the media, and Jorquera changes that narrative.

“It has to do with how you show it. Starting with the locations you choose for a film. With how the characters move. With how they speak and what they want and dream of,” Jorquera said.

Portraying those raw realities comes naturally for Jorquera because of his interest in depicting social issues and working on Latin America’s counterpoints.

“That raw reality has the counterpoint that deep down, you keep living. That there are many raw realities in Latin America, but people keep living with energy and happiness,” Jorquera said. “Despite all of the terrible things, there’s a space to laugh. To keep living and with certain hope that everything can always be better.”

Co-Directing “Noticia De Un Secuestro”

That conceptual portrayal is present in Amazon Prime Video’s series “Noticia De Un Secuestro” (News Of A Kidnapping), which Jorquera co-directed with Andrés Wood. The series is based on Gabriel García Márquez ’s book “Noticia De Un Secuestro” (News Of A Kidnapping.) García Márquez was a globally renowned novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter, and journalist. His works landed him a Nobel Literature Prize in 1982, and he’s one of the greatest representatives of Latin America’s magic realism literary movement.

Given this background, creating an adaptation of one of García Márquez’s books entailed a great challenge for Jorquera. Again, he was invited to participate in the project, which Jorquera described as a luxurious one.

“Just imagine. When I was studying journalism, the first book I read in the time where that all happened was Noticia De Un Secuestro. García Márquez had recently released it,” Jorquera said. “So, imagine how everything complements itself without thinking about it. In a minute, you read something. You do your homework. You prepare something. And then, you end up doing an adaptation of a series about that type of book.”

Both the book and the series speak about the narcoterrorism that Colombia faced during the 90’s. Those were times when the narco-terrorist acts consisted of assassinations of political figures, kidnappings, and bombings.


The book and series tell the story of Maruja Pachón and Beatriz Villamizar’s kidnappings in Colombia. Pachón is married to Alberto Villamizar, a Colombian politician and diplomat. Beatriz is Alberto’s sister. The series centers on the kidnapping from the perspective of the bourgeoisie.

“We wanted to focus on the characters. It’s a story that happens to a bourgeois marriage that’s related to politics. We wanted to see how they reacted to this oppressive drug trafficking universe that permeates an entire country,” Jorquera said. “Noticia De Un Secuestro is the story of Alberto, Maruja, and their family. Of how they lived this. It’s about the human part. Wanting to save each other. Love each other. Everything in a very complex and violent universe.”

NoticiaDeUnSecuestro2.jpg. Filming “Noticia De Un Secuestro” during the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia. Photo by Mario Acevedo. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz
Filming “Noticia De Un Secuestro” during the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia. Photo by Mario Acevedo. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz

Tackling the subjects of narcoterrorism, violence, crime, and violence against women was no easy task. Yet, one of Jorquera and the team's greatest challenges was carrying out the project during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The casting process was very virtual because we were in Chile. We couldn’t travel. We saw the locations through photos. It was very virtual and complex. It was very difficult to communicate, but there was no other alternative,” Jorquera said. “It was a new way to do things.”

The traveling issues made it challenging for the “accurate” location portrayals for the series because part of the story happened in Medellín and others in Bogotá. These two Colombian cities have very different climates and universes, as Jorquera said. They couldn’t travel to Medellín, so that meant filming the scenes in Bogotá and making it look as if it were in Medellín.

NoticiaDeUnSecuestro.jpg. Julio Jorquera filming “Noticia De Un Secuestro” during the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia. Photo by Mario Acevedo. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.
Julio Jorquera filming “Noticia De Un Secuestro” during the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia. Photo by Mario Acevedo. Courtesy of Agencia La Luz.

The Latin American Duality: Happiness and Tragedy

Aside from the locations – especially the Colombian exuberant and luscious greens – music was a key element in the series. The music, mostly cumbia, salsa, and vallenato, helped portray the duality of tragedy and happiness on screen.

“In [the book] Noticia, music was very important. Further from the music, it had to do with the idea that in most of the films where there are drug traffickers, everyone’s killed. No one matters,” Jorquera said. “Our objective was that each death was of important value. I think that was the conductive thread that guided us to choose the music, characters, and locations. I think they’re a motivation, and also the horrible story that happened.”

NoticiaDeUnSecuestro3.jpg,
NoticiaDeUnSecuestro4.jpg
NoticiaDeUnSecuestro5.jpg.

Frames from “Noticia De Un Secuestro.” Via IMDB.

The music aids the duality portrayed, just as the beautiful Colombian nature. For Jorquera, it is evident that Bogotá’s exotic greens helped it not feel too sad.

“It’s like this green, exuberant paradise where tragedy exists. I feel that those two things exist in that way, and Colombia has that. That, despite the terrible things, they keep dancing. That’s very nice in them, which is the opposite of what happens in Chile,” Jorquera said. “Chile is much greyer. We’re not as happy as Colombians. We’re a sadder country. And that was one of Baby Bandito’s challenges. How to create these universes that aren’t so oppressive? How would we bring it to life and give it light.”

In that search for bringing life and light to his art, Jorquera has found himself with film direction that exposes Latin American social issues. He’s honed his craft, reaching millions of people worldwide through Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. He’s created a unique film direction that beautifully explores human nature with a vivid aesthetic full of colorful and energetic music, photography, and art. He’s crafted a film direction that’s a gift synonymous with gratitude for Jorquera.

“I’m very satisfied when I’m working on what I love. I feel very satisfied and privileged when I’m filming. When I’m working on any project. That’s what moves me to live. I’m very grateful that I can constantly work on generating stories,” Jorquera said. “In the end, if you don’t look for the things. If you don’t work, nothing’s coming your way. You have to build yourself as a person and professional.”

To keep up with Julio Jorquera’s artistic film direction, which exposes Latin American social problems, follow him on Instagram at @juliojorquera.

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