Patagonia stars in widely acclaimed Chilean films

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By Sofia Anich
Two Chilean feature films, one of them nominated for the Oscars, to be held this Sunday, March 10, and the other a winner at the Cannes Film Festival, share a great similarity and it isn't just the success they have had both in Chile and abroad.
El Conde, the eleventh film directed by Pablo Larraín, and Los Colonos, the debut feature by filmmaker Felipe Gálvez, turn the vast, beautiful, and pristine Chilean Patagonia into a witness to two dark and brutal episodes in Chile's history: the 1973-1990 military dictatorship and the Selk'nam genocide.
Magallanes, refuge of Pablo Larrain's vampire Pinochet
Set in the southernmost part of Chile, a vampire-like Augusto Pinochet flies over an old ranch located in the Magallanes region. The Chilean dictator, played by Jaime Vadell, is the protagonist in El Conde, the satire directed by Larraín that imagines a terrifying scenario where Pinochet reaches the age of 250 and, tired of being remembered as a thief, decides to die.

"This Sunday, March 10, we will know if El Conde wins the Oscar in the 'Best Cinematography' category."

Presented in colorless black and white, the cold and vastness of the Patagonian landscapes construct a timeless space where the vampire version of Pinochet dwells, where the eternity of his years seems to represent the terrifying influence that the dictator still exerts on Chilean society after the return to democracy. The abandoned house (the former Oazy Harbour ranch) and the harsh Patagonian landscape provide a horror story atmosphere that lends verisimilitude to the main character.
El Conde, produced in collaboration with Netflix, earned a nomination in the category of "Best Cinematography" at the 96th edition of the Oscars for the work of its renowned cinematographer, the American Ed Lachman, who has previously been nominated for Carol (2016) and Far From Heaven (2003). This weekend when we will find out if Larraín takes his second golden statuette.
Tierra del Fuego, the scene of the Selk'nam genocide in Los Colonos
From the very first scene, the Patagonian steppes dazzle in Los Colonos, the debut feature of Chilean filmmaker Felipe Gálvez, which portrays the Selk'nam (or ona) genocide that occurred in Tierra del Fuego at the beginning of the 20th century, in a western-style historical fiction. 

"Witnesses of a brutal massacre, the Patagonian landscapes become another main character in the film."

Witnesses of a brutal massacre, the Patagonian landscapes become another main character in the film, which is transgressed by the crimes committed by Maclenan, an English military man; Bill, the American mercenary; and Segundo, a Chilean of mixed ethnicity, who embark on an expedition to kill the Ona people by order of José Menéndez, who was in charge of administering the Patagonian lands belonging to the Chilean State. 
The film takes the necessary pauses to dwell on the vast landscapes of Tierra del Fuego, with a large number of wide shots that make the viewer feel the magnitude and desolation of Patagonia, which to this day remains one of the last wild places in the world.
The magnitude and calm of this land contrast with the violence of individuals who, convinced of their racial superiority, show no qualms in murdering those who inhabited Tierra del Fuego before colonialism. Gálvez's feature film brings back the uncomfortable and cruel reality in which Chile is guilty of the near extinction of the Selk'nam. 
Los Colonos received in May 2023 the Fipresci prize in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, awarded by international critics, and was screened at the Toronto, San Sebastian, and New York festivals. The film, co-produced internationally by 8 countries, arrived in Chilean theaters in January 2024 and had more than 10,000 moviegoers in its first week.