An Indigenous girl seeks revenge for her father’s death and finds solace in a secret cabal of witches. This enigmatic folktale of supernatural resistance provides a haunting portrayal of Chile’s colonial past.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
This captivating tale of a young Huilliche girl’s search for justice, after the violent and needless death of her father, morphs into a parallel journey of self-discovery. Cast out by her colonial employers, thirteen-year-old Rosa finds a place, and the possibility of redress, with her estranged indigenous community. Inspired by true tales of 19th century Chilean witchcraft trials, writer-director Christopher Murray and co-writer Pablo Paredes opt for narrative restraint, making use of the film’s subtle supernatural elements to effectively convey a milieu of fear and misunderstanding. Sorcery’s critique of colonisation and colonial power dynamics is pointed in its delivery, adding a poignancy to young Rosa’s journey.
Arresting cinematography immerses the viewer firmly in the rain soaked Chiloé Island setting, as well as in the inscrutable face of its young lead Valentina Véliz Caileo (impressing in her debut feature role). A muted colour palette and detailed sound design combine to sustain a mood of tension and mystery throughout. Successfully fusing the genre mechanics of a revenge thriller with elements of magical realism and a contemplative visual tone, Sorcery sits somewhere between the work of Robert Eggers and Andrei Tarkovsky as very much its own remarkable cinematic experience. — Jacob Powell
“Rosa’s coming of age is a hero’s journey for which she did not ask, but Caileo plays her with such subtlety and grace that the transformation is seamless. Likewise, the themes of female empowerment, grief, magic and mayhem all overlap smoothly, speaking to the complexity of acknowledging and rejecting one’s colonial occupation.” — Leila Latif, Sight and Sound