TRAUMA: The inhabitants of a small German colony in Chile once founded as a sectarian settlement, develop different narratives to cope with its grim and traumatic past.
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: April 12, 2020

It’s well-known now that the clandestine operation of ratlines — escape routes for Nazis fleeing Europe after World War Two to hide from culpability — led to many war criminals and their sympathisers establishing new lives in Latin America. One especially sinister offshoot of fugitive relocation was the founding of sect colony Colonia Dignidad at the foot of the Andes Mountains by Paul Schaefer, a former corporal who left Germany after being charged with child sexual abuse at the children’s home and Baptist ministry he ran there. The isolated settlement in Chile, in which children were separated from their parents and subjected to beatings and abuse, collaborated with the brutal military dictatorship that came to power in the ‘70s under Augusto Pinochet, serving as a secret centre for the torture and extra-judicial killing of dissidents. In its confluence of pedophilia, sadism, and outsourced political persecution, it’s difficult to imagine a more horrific place. But, rather than making a conventional documentary that stops at bearing witness to the cult’s criminality, or that sensationalistically milks its shock value, directing duo Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moraga achieve something remarkable in Songs of Repression, engaging with the legacy of collective trauma among the 120 residents who still live in the colony, and pondering what escape from or peace with the past might mean for them, through their haunted testimonies and evasions. The sensitive, psychologically searching, and profound film was named winner of the DOX:AWARD at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX, a festival forced to …

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