Sundance 2023: ‘Sorcery’ A Dark Revenge Fantasy


Valentina Véliz Caileo in “Sorcery” (2023) (Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Catarina Oliveira)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer

A Grim Fairytale

Set on Chiloé Island in the late 1800s, “Sorcery” (or “Brujería”) is a dark revenge fantasy set in a colonial era. The film focuses in on themes of coming of age and the hidden and often suppressed culture of Indigenous people.

Following the brutal murder of her father by German settler Stefan, Rosa Raín seeks justice from the island’s Chilean mayor to no avail. It’s a young Huilliche girl’s word against a colonizer.

Following this setback, Rosa instead finds solace with Mateo, the leader of the “Recta Provincia,” a mysterious faction of the Huilliche that practices witchcraft. Mateo becomes her mentor, putting her on a path to find a form of justice. Yet, as Rosa embarks further along this journey, it soon becomes clear that vengeance is an even more slippery slope as she becomes entangled in a larger resistance against Chiloé’s colonial forces.


Rosa Raín, played by newcomer Valentina Véliz Caileo, is well-suited as a protagonist to begin this kind of story. She’s a soft-spoken and sensible young girl. As the story progresses, Rosa doesn’t seem to break out of her shell when the tensions rise. Still, this does lend an eerie quality to the character as she explores a new side of herself.

Mateo (Daniel Antivilo) likewise is an excellent mentor figure for Rosa. Coming across as stern and gruff to begin with, there is a humanity to him that connects him to his young charge.

Another mysterious character is a woods witch (Neddiel Muñoz Millalonco) and one of the more understated characters of the film. Another one of Rosa’s mentors, this strange character guides her into darker territory and is instrumental in changing the course of the story and Rosa’s arc.

Stefan (Sebastian Hülk) is the petulant and overbearing foreman that instigates Rosa’s journey, though it is apparent that a confrontation with the German settlers was coming. A key aspect of this character is that he legitimately believes himself to be in the right, even though his actions are reprehensible.

Subdelegado Acevedo (Daniel Muñoz), a beleaguered mayor of a settlement he didn’t ask to be in charge of, gives one of the film’s finest performances. It’s very apparent how much stifling the rising agitation on Chiloé is weighing on him.

Darkly Decolonial

Based on real events of the conflict between German Settlers and the Huilliche people of Chile, “Sorcery” is a focused microcosm of the larger historical struggle that is colonialism.

“This colonization process interests me not only as a confrontation of external forces, but also from an intimate dimension manifested in bodies, emotions, beliefs and bonds,” said Christopher Murray in his director’s statement. “Therefore, ‘Sorcery’ is situated from Rosa Raín, a girl who in the midst of this disputed territory must live a radical journey between cosmovisions, leaving behind worlds to find her own.”

“Sorcery” is one of the darker films premiering at Sundance this year and has already been nominated for an award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition category.


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