In a grim subarctic landscape, a massacre amid the horrors of colonialism

Chile’s candidacy for the Oscars for Best International Film will be presented in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. And director Theo Court takes viewers back a little over a century in “White on White” to discover the horrors of colonialism and the legacy it left in many countries.

“I believe there is something global in the history of colonization and the way it was carried out across the hemisphere,” Court told NBC News in a telephone interview. “We identify with and sympathize with elements of it. And I’m shocked that the events that inspired the film took place a little over a hundred years ago. This proximity to history obliges us to examine it.

Court says he wanted to make a western in the South and describes the Patagonian landscape as a “mighty place where an exterminating angel could have walked through and wiped out absolutely everything.”

Theo Court. Photos of foreigners

But he also wanted to demystify some of the basic elements of westerns, particularly how places inhabited by indigenous peoples are mistakenly presented as “virgin lands” or “new lawless lands”.

“White on White” presents the grim subarctic landscape of Tierra del Fuego through the perspective of photographer Pedro (played by Alfredo Castro), who is commissioned by Mr. Porter, a wealthy entrepreneur who never appears onscreen, for her wedding. And the film ends with two different types of portraits.

The first portraits are of a bride-to-be, and viewers will see how the photographer uncomfortably manipulates her body and erotically positions her wedding dress for a photo.

The director says it was inspired by the actual portraits of young women that were directed by Lewis Carroll, the author of the children’s classic “Alice in Wonderland”.

Pedro then stages other photos of Mr. Porter’s workers, including a portrait of armed men standing next to the naked body of a deceased Native.

Court says this series of photos is inspired by the actual portraits that were taken by Julius Popper (Julio Popper in Spanish), who in the late 1880s documented the massacre of the Selk’nam tribe as he killed them in Tierra del Fuego to raise funds for his gold expedition.

Popper was an engineer of Romanian origin who, after traveling through Asia, the Middle East and the American Hemisphere, settled in the large island of Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of America Latin, which is divided by Chile and Argentina.

He minted his own gold coins, printed his own stamps, and documented the massacre of the Selk’nam, heroically posing with his gunmen over the naked corpses of murdered tribesmen in staged war footage to collect funds in Buenos Aires.

“What we need now is for you to take a picture of the workers doing their safety and operational duties,” one of Mr Porter’s managers says onscreen after Pedro hands over two ears mutilated from a deceased tribal member in exchange for payment. . “We want a record because we are making history here. Carve out a homeland.

Pedro in Tierra del Fuego. Photos of foreigners

Short says that offscreen, Popper paid a bounty in pounds sterling to those who brought in the ears and testicles of dead tribesmen and the breasts of dead tribal women. He estimates that in about 15 years, as many as 5,000 Selk’nam were murdered or died of illness.

“There are very few vestiges of this history and the genocide that took place there,” the court said. “And I think it’s very important to show the atrocities that are hidden in our American history.”

Discover hidden hemispherical truths

Latin American historian José Moya says that climate, population and geography played an important role in the history of the first European colonization and subsequent migrations.

“About three-quarters of the indigenous population, before the arrival of Europeans, was concentrated in two regions of the hemisphere”: Mesoamerica, which stretches from central Mexico to southern Costa Rica, and the Andes plants, which extend south of Ecuador, along western Bolivia, to northern Argentina and Chile, he said in a telephone interview.

Comparatively, Moya says populations at the ends of the hemisphere were less dense and less sedentary. And therefore, the professor points out that racial inequalities and racial tensions are often much higher in places where larger indigenous populations have been conquered (such as Mexico, Guatemala and Bolivia) or in places where the history of slavery was widespread.

In the case of Chile and other countries with smaller indigenous populations, Moya said that European immigrants arriving in droves centuries after the first conquerors and colonizers were entering societies based on egalitarian ideals. However, he stressed, these places were far from being paradises.

“There were Aboriginals there before the Europeans, and they were the losers. To this day, when you look at places like Chile and the United States, indigenous people are often the poorest, the most marginalized, ”he said. “So while you have these seeming egalitarian societies, it’s a contradiction. Even in the most egalitarian places, there is inequality. And some of these inequalities are related to race, ethnicity, and origin.

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