After the end of World War II, many Nazis fled to safe havens abroad, often ending up in South America where they (generally) received a warm welcome. It’s estimated that almost 10,000 Nazi officers and collaborators forged a new life in Argentina, Brazil or Chile. The latter played host to Colonia Dignidad, an isolated commune where these German settlers were allowed to carry out torture, abuse and murder. It provides the setting for A Place Called Dignity.
Pablo, a 12-year-old Chilean boy, wins a scholarship to study and live in the mysterious Colonia Dignidad. He quickly becomes the favourite of the leader of the colony, Paul Schäfer, or ‘Uncle Paul’ to his boys and girls. While Pablo is desperate to earn the privileges of a ‘sprinter’, which include being able to watch TV every day, he begins to notice strange things happening within the camp.
A Place Called Dignity is an impeccably made period drama which plays out like a dark fairy tale. This period and institution remain taboo subjects in Chile. Director Matias Rojas Valencia’s film does a great job of highlighting the horrendous practices which took place while, at the same time, being an engaging and moving drama. There’s a sense of inevitability to A Place Called Dignity. One which casts a shadow over each moment.
A Place Called Dignity screens at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.