1860, Southern border of the “civilized” world. A French lawyer crosses the frontier of Chile into Araucania, a region inhabited by Mapuche tribes who have successfully defended their land from European invasion for over 300 years. This Frenchman, Orllie-Antoine, has a pacific proposition for the native leaders: he will establish a kingdom, become their king, and help them defend it from the threat of Chilean occupation. Rather than attempting to recreate a chronicle of the exploits of this extraordinary historical figure, Rey builds a multi-faceted inner portrait of this man: from dreams to imagination, from ambition to reality, from vision to delusion. Hallucinatory, surreal, unique, Rey has the spectator navigate into different currents of phantasmagorical images and sounds, provoking reflections on history and the vulnerability of memory. Ultimately, the viewer is invited to create their own version of the story.
What most interests me about the story of the King of Araucania and Patagonia reaches beyond the fantastical narrative of his adventures in southern Chile. It is the enigmatic and utterly mystifying nature of this historical figure and the scarce memory that remains of him today. Buried under layers of myths and legends, there is just enough concrete evidence of this man and his kingdom to prevent them both from slipping into total oblivion. However, there are so many holes in the story that only a fragmented vision can be pieced together at best. In Rey, the spectator is invited to construct their own narrative from these bits and pieces. As if a chest of buried film had been discovered in the soil of Patagonia, this ambiguous realm of forgotten dreams is unearthed before our eyes. We are witness to these ghostly sounds and images, the decaying memories of another era. And like a fading memory they remain a chimera to this day, a king and a kingdom that exist only in dreams.
For me filming is an act of possession, of magic. Once the threshold of the camera and microphone is passed miracles can happen.
Niles Atallah (1978) is a film director, videoartist and photographer. He studied Art with a focus on Painting and Photography in the United States. He is the co-director of the animation film series Lucía, Luis and the Wolf, composed of the two shorts: Lucía (2007) and Luis (2008). His first feature film Lucía (2010) premiered at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Zabaltegi "New Directors" section. His second feature film REY (2017) was screened at IFFR where it won the Special Jury Award.