Paris-based powerhouse MK2 Films has picked up international distribution rights to Felipe Gálvez’s Chilean Western “Los colonos” (“The Settlers”), one of the most buzzed-about projects to come out of Chile in recent years.

“We are very proud to be representing such an artistically ambitious period film and one of such crucial importance and vital necessity today, when the wounds of colonization are still fresh,” said Juliette Schrameck, managing director of MK2 Films.

Lead produced by Giancarlo Nasi at Santiago-based Quijote Films

“Having MK2 on board gives us a final boost for the financing process but also confirms what we always believed: that ‘The Settlers’ is a film of the highest artistic standard together with being audience appealing,” Nasi said.

Nasi described the film’s co-producers – Argentina’s REI Cine, Denmark’s Snowglobe and France’s Cine-Sud Promotion – as a “dream team,” who have a record of backing important Latin American films. France’s Cinémas du Monde, Italy’s TorinoFilmLab and Argentina’s INCAA are among the film’s funders. Quijote and REI Cine also clinched financing from the Chile-Argentina bilateral co-production fund.

The projects was selected for this year’s Cannes Atelier, and won the 2018 TorinoFilmLab prize, one of Europe’s key co-production awards.

The producers are looking to cast both English- and Spanish-speaking talents.

“’The Settlers’ is an ambitious first feature film that the industry has backed in many ways. It is a strong project preceded by a strong short film from the director, which premiered in Cannes’ Critics’ Week, was selected by more than 40 festivals and had an unprecedented success in Chile,” Nasi said.

“We were extremely impressed by Felipe Gálvez’s latest short film and particularly by his unique approach to a timely issue. This acquisition is very much in line with our DNA and intention to promote the best new voices in international cinema,” Schrameck said.

“That MK2 decides to bet on a film of these characteristics, which reflects on how countries build their official story, makes us very happy. For me it is a great honor to work with them. In many of the films that were an essential part of my training as a filmmaker, MK2 was present. That now they want to be part of ‘Los colonos’ means a lot to me and to the project,” Gálvez said.

Co-written by Gálvez and Antonia Girardi, and based on true events, the film is scheduled to shoot in Tierra de Fuego and Patagonia in March 2020.

“The Setters” is set in 1901 as Segundo, a mixed-race Chilean, rides south on an expedition led by Alexander Maclennan, a former captain in the British army, and Bill, an American mercenary, to fence off land granted to Spanish landowner José Menéndez.

They brutally – and euphorically – slaughter a settlement of indigenous Onas, abducting a teen Ona girl, Klepja, on the way back.

Eight years later, in a third act epilogue, an envoy, Vicuña, is sent to the newly settled lands. Segundo, seeing a chance to assuage his guilt, confesses to his crimes. But Vicuña turns a deaf ear, produces a camera and proceeds to film Segundo, Klepja and their children, framed as an exemplary family of now “civilized” Chileans.

“The Settlers” is thoroughly researched, inspired by a judicial investigation of a massacre of Ona tribespeople in 1893.

Written under the influence of John Ford’s “The Searchers,” Gálvez has said it details not only how Chile’s South was won by acts of genocide, but how that carnage was part of a larger nationalist narrative of a process of “civilization,” which relegated many such as Segundo and Klepja to the margins of society.

“It was private-sector companies, with the collusion of the state, which carried out the genocide,” said Nasi, adding the film suggests the difference between truth and history, “which finally becomes the truth for a nation.”

“In a world of populist governments and nationalism, this is highly relevant for today,” he said.