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Chilean Women Make 6-Decade 'Tea Time' Chats Into "Sacred" Bond

A white tablecloth rests neatly on a table topped with beautiful pastries, cupcakes with a bright pink and yellow frosting, colorful sprinkles and can
Tea Time Eating
From Left to Right: Juanita Vásquez, Nina Chicarelli, Angélica Charpentier, Ximena Calderón, Alicia Pérez, characters.Alvaro Reyes L. / Alvaro Reyes L.

A white tablecloth rests neatly on a table topped with beautiful pastries, cupcakes with a bright pink and yellow frosting, colorful sprinkles and candy toppings and from a distance, a clock reads 5p.m. and Spanish chatter can be heard as a group of women meet for their monthly talks as they have been for the past 60 years.

The group of five girlfriends met while they were in school in Chile and after high school, they started a tradition to meet every month. Filmmaker Maite Alberdi has been around this group of women from a young age, since her grandmother is one of them. For the past five years, Alberdi has been working on a documentary to show how these women made a simple meeting into a six-decade friendship.

“I realized they transformed an everyday act into something sacred and the fact that they were able to conserve their friendship over 60 years is very powerful,” said Alberdi.

The 32-year-old film director is preparing for the premiere of her documentary, “Tea Time” which will broadcast nationally on PBS’s POV (Point of View) series on Monday, July 27, 2015 (check local PBS listings for times).

Alberdi says that one of the main trends and relatability of the film is in its simplicity; women gathering over drinks and food to talk about life.

“’Tea Time’ is more of a minimal portrait of universal concepts that people identify with,” said Alberdi.

From Left to Right: María Teresa Muñoz, Angélica Charpentier, Ximena Calderón, Alicia Pérez, Gema Droguett.Calderón family archive / Calderón family archive

The film also shows the changing times. When the group of friends first started meeting, women did not have the right to vote and now the topic of conversation of these ladies is same-sex marriage.

“It’s an actual depiction of Latin American women,” said the filmmaker. “I think it’s evident of the change of role of Latin America which has been slower than women in America. It’s a slower role transition for women in society.”

In one part, the women review an old textbook that speaks about a woman’s role as mother and housekeeper. Most of the woman laughed and talked about a woman’s role today being all of that and more.

From left to right: Nina Chicarelli, Angélica Charpentier, characters.Alvaro Reyes L. / Alvaro Reyes L.

While adapting to the changing times, the women learned from each other.

“They learned to be more tolerant in the way they think,” said Alberdi. “The fact that they were so different, they learned to listen and not to be so judgmental. That was a main transformation of them as a group.”

Compared to her previous documentary, “The Lifeguard,” the filmmaker said “Tea Time” definitely had its challenges, starting with the table.

“I was restricted to the table here and at the beach [while filming The Lifeguard], there was a lot happening but at the table I had to focus on conversation and small gestures,” said Alberdi.

The women in the group told Alberdi that they are grateful to have a documentation of their life. Promoting the documentary, the women are “living the rock star lifestyle” says the filmmaker.

“It has brought them a new experience that they didn’t think they would have at this stage in their life.”

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