Theatrum Mundi: Colonial Farce and the Task of Indigenization in Niles Atallah’s Rey


Rey Dir. Niles Atallah (Chile/France/Holland/Germany/Qatar, 2017)

The indigenous peoples of what we have come to call Latin America continue to struggle against exile and genocide today. This is the takeaway, stated plainly (written, actually) in the final moments of Niles Atallah’s film Rey, yet another reminder of the urgency with which indigenization must be dealt in our present moment of advanced—truly global—neocolonialism.


Rey recalls the story of the French lawyer Orélie-Antoine de Tounens, a real-life historical figure of the nineteenth century, whose ambitions of empire-making (his so-called ‘noble dream’) propel him to Southern Chile in 1860 to establish his own kingdom in a region south of the Biobío River called Araucanía. Apparently void of any European settlement, the land seemed to the Frenchman ideal virgin territory for conquest. The presence of indigenous populations, collectively called the Mapuche (Mapudungun for ‘people of the land’), is seen not as a hindrance but as an opportunity to convince and win ove