New Europe Film Sales, handling international sales for Matías Rojas Valencia’s “A Place Called Dignity,” “Un lugar llamado dignidad” in Spanish, which is currently playing in competition at this year’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, have given Variety exclusive access to the film’s international trailer.
The film presents a dramatized look at events surrounding Paul Schaefer, a former Nazi soldier who fled to rural Chile after WWII. There, he established the German-speaking Colonia Dignidad (Dignity Colony) and reigned over a generations-long culture of torture, child abuse and murder, thanks to the protection of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Under Schaefer’s leadership the community entrenched itself, becoming indispensable to the locals and providing schooling and medical services in an area where there would otherwise be none.
Rojas’ film is a dramatized look at real-life events surrounding Schaefer’s time in Chile from the perspective of Pablo, a 12-year-old boy, who receives a scholarship to attend school in the Colonia. He quickly becomes one of Schaefer’s favorites and, over time, witnesses several strange things happening in the community including abuse, disappearances and the use of demon-like creatures to scare children into submission. However, several in the community are ready to turn on Schafer and may prove a lifeline to young Pablo.
In the trailer we are introduced to Pablo and Schafer. Dramatic music and suspenseful scenes emphasize the discomfort that many in the community must have felt constantly, and we see brief glimpses into the abuse perpetrated by Schafer’s closest confidants, as well as the theatrical methods used to keep everyone in line.
Colonia Dignidad has proven to be a regular source of inspiration and curiosity among filmmakers in recent years, and was the subject of the well-received and well-reviewed series “Dignity” from Invercine & Wood and Story House Productions commissioned by Mega in Chile and Discovery and ProSiebenSat’s streaming platform Joyn in Germany, the Netflix Original docuseries “A Sinister Sect: Colonia Dignidad,” as well as a Rojas’ next project, announced by Variety earlier this month, a documentary-hybrid feature based on Rojas’ research while writing and directing “A Place Called Dignity.”
“I am part of a generation that grew up hearing stories about Colonia Dignidad,” says Rojas of his early inspirations for the series. “When their leader, Paul Schäfer, escaped to Argentina in the late 1990s, he was still supported by the politicians, the military and the police. I would say that this place remains a mystery in so many ways.
“It represents a country that used to sweep secrets under a rug of alleged progress,” he continues. “Even today, there are active members of the government and influential civilians who were a part of this Colonia Dignidad circle of friends. They are the ones who used to protect Paul Schäfer. Reflecting upon this place may help us review our recent history. Not just in my country but in other places where similar situations took place.”
Lead produced by multi-award-winning producer Giancarlo Nasi (“The Man of the Future,” “Lina from Lima”) at Quijote Films, “A Place Called Dignity” is an ambitious, five-country co-production between the Chilean company – producers of Rojas’ “In the Shade of the Trees” as well as Théo Court’s Venice triple award-winner “White on White” – and Autocroma in Argentina, Germany’s Klinkerfilm, France’s Mandra Films and Séptima Films in Colombia.
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