“One man less is not a problem. The Indians are the problem.”
The Settlers is the International Feature submission for Chile. The film takes place in Tierra del Fuego, in the southernmost point of Chile and Argentina in 1901. The entire land is owned by Jose Menendez. With the help of dozens of men, he’s been building fences across his entire property in order to protect his sheep from any intruders. Despite his efforts, his sheep keep getting attacked by the Indigenous people who have lived on this land their entire life.
In retaliation, Menendez hires Alexander MacLennan, a Scottish war veteran, Bill, a ruthless “Indigenous tracker,” and Segundo, a local from the area, to secure a safe route from his land to the Atlantic Ocean for his sheep. The three men begin their journey to the vast and expansive unknown. Their search to cleanse the island has begun.
The Settlers is a striking directorial debut for Felipe Gálvez Haberle. It’s a stunning photographed Western with a brooding meditative pace which touches on the cold-blooded savagery, the forced assimilation, and the cultural genocide done to the innocent inhabitants of this area. The film is punctured with brutality, creating an anxiety driven, extremely difficult to watch movie.
The film showcases some of the darkest parts of Chile and Argentina’s past. The unimaginable bloodshed that was done to these people lasted for decades as the population dwindled from thousands in the late 1800s to less than 500 in the early 1900s. The Indigenous men and women were tortured, raped and exterminated. The Settlers tells one story, one colonization, one part of a bloody history. The epilogue is such a tragic, gut-punching ending and such a perfect way to solidify the message of the film and the impact that it's caused for thousands of people.
Do you want to be a part of this nation? Barbaric yet meditative, this well-crafted film doesn’t spare any opportunity to show the ugliest parts of the Chilean genocidal history.