The Settlers Felipe Gálvez Cannes review – The Hollywood Reporter
There has been a recent trend in international art cinema dating roughly as far back as two Argentinian films in the past decade: Lucrecia Martel’s Zama (2017) and Lisandro Alonso Jauja (2014).
Both films told dark tales of European colonization, and massacres of indigenous peoples in South America, in ways that felt thoroughly contemporary, eschewing traditional narratives in favor of something more dark and modern. In such films, the past is reflected through the lens of the present. All the characters wore period costumes and the sets were made to look dated from the era, but the stories told, and the way they were told, felt very much of our time, as if the horrors were still with us.
A revisionist Western revisiting historical crimes.
This trend has continued, albeit in a more playful sense, in Italian film The Tale of King Crab (2021), and in a more spiritual sense set in Iceland Goodland (2022), both of which premiered in Cannes. This year, the festival offers another take on the genre The Settlers (Los Colonos), a feature debut from Felipe Gálvez chronicling the genocide of Chile’s indigenous peoples at the hands of Spanish landowners, who brutally massacred tribes in the Tierra del Fuego region as they built their agricultural empire.
Galvez, who co-wrote the film with Antonia Girardi, uses the archetype of a Western person to tell his story, though it is a Western story borne out of a postcolonial critique that gradually takes on the point of view of its only indigenous character, Segundo (Camilo Arancibia).
When we first meet him, Segundo was working with other natives on a wall the Spanish had erected to separate the pampa of Chile from neighboring Argentina. The work is ruthless and overseen by ruthless masters who don’t hesitate to kill the wounded, so when Segundo’s expert marksmanship gets him enlisted on a mission to clear pastures all the way to the Pacific Ocean, it looks like a deal might get better.
The expedition is led by Jose Mendez (Alfredo Castro), a power player in the emerging Chilean economy and just as ruthless as Daniel Plainview. Indeed, there will be blood on a treacherous journey that takes Segundo, a war-torn Scottish lieutenant (Mark Stanley) and American mercenary Bill (Benjamin Westfall), imported from Texas, through mountains and through valleys until they reach the sea.
For much of the opening and middle sections, The Settlers It works like a three-handed western as the clashing personalities of Bill and the lieutenant — who we discover is, in fact, a private — as Segundo silently looks on. Divided into chapters with titles, and bolstered by a score from Harry Alloush with some echoes of Ennio Morricone, the film can feel a little strange when it leans so heavily into the trappings of the genre, wearing Postmodernism very prominently on its sleeve.
But when we gradually learn that the trio have been tasked with ridding the land of the natives, things take a decidedly darker turn and the real focus of The Settlers come to light. The most horrific scene in the movie is Bill and the lieutenant killing a tribe of innocent people, then raping one of the survivors. Segundo tries to avoid participating, but is drawn into committing an act of violence from which he cannot escape, leaving him traumatized and full of remorse. Even if he came from a different tribe, he was forced to turn against his own people.
Filmed in the Academy format by Simone D’Arcangelo, who has done similar work The Tale of King Crab, the film feels like an artifact from an earlier time, slowly zooming and panning across the massive landscape where the ride takes place. However, while its methods are intentionally archaic, its goals are very much in the here and now. This is a movie that delves into Chile’s colonial past – especially during the closing segment which turns the story into a historical one.
But even then, Gálvez presents Segundo, whom others refer to as a “half-breed,” not so much as an unlikely hero as a victim who was lucky and resourceful enough to survive a harrowing moment in Chile’s turbulent birth. during The SettlersThe provocative denouement, and ambitious Chilean officials force the man to recount everything he saw on his mission, including yet another horrific massacre, and he does so only because again he has little choice. This may be his country’s history, but he wants no Part of it.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Production companies: Quijote Films, Rei Cine, Snowglobe, Quiddity Films, CinéSud Production
Cast: Camilo Arancibia, Mark Stanley, Benjamin Westfall, Alfredo Castro, Sam Spruell, Mariano Lenas, Adriana Stovin, Michelle Joanna
Director: Felipe Galvez
Screenwriters: Felipe Galvez, Antonia Girardi
Producers: Stefano Centini, Benjamin Domenech, Santiago Galilei, Thierry Linouville, Emilie Morgan, Giancarlo Nasi, Matias Rovida
Executive Producers: Fernando Baskonan, Juan Jose Erinchen, Constanza Erinchen, Alex C.
Director of Photography: Simone D’Arcangelo
Production designer: Sebastián Orgambide
Costume designers: Natalia Allion, Muriel Parra
Editor: Mathieu Tabonnier
Composer: Harry Alloush
In both English and Spanish
1 hour 40 minutes