Set in on the remote frontier in early 20th-century Chile, first-time filmmaker Felipe Gálvez’s exhilarating and provocative revisionist Western takes a sidelong glance at Chile’s dark colonial past.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
This brooding and brutal debut feature was a critical favourite at Cannes, where it won the critics’ FIPRESCI Prize for Un Certain Regard.
“Gálvez, who co-wrote the film with Antonia Girardi, uses the template of a Western to tell his story, although it’s a Western carried by a postcolonial critique that gradually takes on the viewpoint of its sole Indigenous character, Segundo (Camilo Arancibia).
When we first meet him, Segundo is laboring with other native-born on a fence the Spanish are erecting to separate the pampas of Chile from neighboring Argentina. The work is ruthless and overseen by cruel masters who have no qualms about killing the injured, so when Segundo’s expert marksman skills get him recruited on a mission to clear grazing land all the way to the Pacific, it looks like he may be getting a better deal.
The mission has been commanded by José Menéndez (Alfredo Castro), a powerful player in Chile’s emerging economy who’s as merciless as Daniel Plainview. Indeed, there will be blood on a treacherous journey that takes Segundo, a war-torn Scottish lieutenant (Mark Stanley) and an American mercenary, Bill (Benjamin Westfall), who’s been imported from Texas, over mountains and across ravines until they reach the sea…
Shot in the Academy format by Simone D’Arcangelo… the film looks like an artefact from an older time, slowly zooming and panning across the monumental landscapes where the journey takes place. Yet while its stylings are purposely retro, its aims are very much of the here and now. This is a film that digs deep into Chile’s colonial past—especially during a closing section that transforms the story into one of historical reckoning.” — Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter