Songs of Repression (2020) Dox Award | CPH:DOX 2020

March 27th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Estephan Wagner, Marianne Hougen-Moraga. Doc, Denmark 90′

Few stories from the Pinochet era are more tragically sinister than that of the Colonia Dignidad in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Here a German community suffered years of abuse in thrall to  a cult of religious fanaticism that wreaked a reign of terror and some of the worst atrocities of the Chilean dictatorship.

Villa Baviera couldn’t be more idyllic in its mountain freshness in contrast to the events that took place behind closed doors. Filmmakers Wagner and Hougen-Morgaga have adopted a novel but restrained approach to illuminating this little known episode of terror, calmly and thoughtfully opening the door to understanding how those affected have gradually come to terms with their past. The directors spent just over a year filming with this stricken community of around 120 surviving inhabitants and perpetrators, who suffered under the draconian regime of Paul Schafer for over three decades from the early 1960s to the late 1990s.

What emerges is sometimes difficult to believe. To all intents and purposes this rural idyll seems the perfect place to live with its glorious climate and lush mountain setting. Residents are surrounded by the beauty of the Chilean countryside where they spend their days gardening and even bee-keeping. There is also a care home for older residents. But behind the scenes they reveal experiences that are beyond belief involving beatings, abuse both sexual and verbal, and forced participation in singing songs that glorify their lives in the Villa Baviera, rather than demonise them.

The thrust of Songs of Repression is on the present rather than the past: there is no archive footage, although we do discover how Schafer was eventually dealt with. The filmmakers focus on  the regime’s effect on its inmates and how their psychological well-being was warped and destroyed by the gradual trauma and abuse. They are only now starting to recuperate after years victimisation, Anger and disappointment replaces fear and oppression, and the idea that sex is actually an expression of love rather than of violence and hatred.

Not everyone there is completely outraged by what happened, some still foster the idea that Pinochet was actually misguided and misled. And this human individuality of response in the face of tragedy is what ultimately makes Songs of Repression so remarkable and ground-breaking as a documentary testament to the past. MT



Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia