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The Chile Coup and Pinochet’s “Christian” Torture Chamber

Ed Rampell: German director Florian Gallenberger’s Colonia is arguably ZFF’s most hard hitting film.



German director Florian Gallenberger’s Colonia is arguably ZFF’s most hard hitting film. Lena (Emma Watson, Hermione in the Harry Potter series) and Daniel (Barcelona-born Daniel Brühl, who has appeared in numerous politically-minded features, including the 2013 WikiLeaks movie The Fifth Estate, 2005’s Joyeux Noel, 2004’s The Edukators, 2003’s Good Bye Lenin!) are Westerners ensnared in the U.S.-backed 1973 coup d’etat in Chile. The horrific events are chillingly depicted in news clips of democratically elected leftist Pres. Salvador Allende, etc., and harrowing dramatizations based on actual events.

Lena and Daniel end up in Colonia, a remote, supposedly devout Christian compound run by fanatic Paul Schäfer (Michael Nyqvist, co-star of the 2009 Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), one of those Germans who ended up in South America after World War II. This overzealous settlement puts the “mental” into fundamentalist, as the gender-separated flock performs slave labor, suffer beatings and subsist in prison-like conditions.

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[Plot Spoiler Alert!] It turns out that Colonia is actually acting as a front for Gen. Pinochet’s repressive regime. Beneath the “Christian” colony are a series of tunnels and torture chambers, where political prisoners are tormented by the fascistic henchmen of Pinochet - who is depicted onscreen visiting Colonia. Colonia is reminiscent of Costa-Gavras’ 1982 Chile coup classic Missing and the 2015 Bolivia and Chile-set Olvidados - although it is arguably more terrifying, as the demented Schäfer was convicted of serial sexual abuse of children. However, Colonia notes nobody was ever convicted of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Pinochet’s torturers underground at Colonia. Ironically, this expose of Pinochet’s reactionary regime is a production of 20th Century Fox - Rupert Murdoch’s studio.

For more information see here. Located in Zürich’s historic Old Town, the Widder Hotel is a great place to stay within walking distance of most ZFF venues..

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell

L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” (see: His interview with America’s former Poet Laureate is in the new book “Conversations With W.S. Merwin.”