Toward the end of the 19th century, 25 people from four different Chilean indigenous groups were kidnapped from Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia by a German businessman and taken to Europe to be exhibited as attractions in cities throughout the continent. THE HUMAN ZOO uncovers the history of this colonial spectacle, and follows the fallout into the present.
With Chilean historian Christian Báez, director Hans Mulchi contacts these native people’s descendents, and traces their voyage from South America across Europe, paying particular attention to the fate of Calafate, a Selk’nam boy who was taken when he just 9 years old, and survived to return to his native land.
Others were not so lucky. The filmmakers discover a collection of skeletons of five Kawésqar people in the archives of the Anthropology Department at the University of Zurich, and with help from the Swiss researchers, begin the process of repatriation to Chile.
Their efforts—and those of the Kawésqar descendents—reveal not only the persisting legacy of colonial oppression, but also the fissures that still separate indigenous Chilean communities from their national government.
"Recommended. This documentary will be of interest to anthropology departments with focus on ethnographic studies and the rights of indigenous populations. It will also be useful for discussions of racism, South American history, and social Darwinism." —Educational Media Reviews Online
Santiagillo Prize, 2012 Festival de Cine Recobrado (Chile)
Winner, Best Feature Documentary Festival International Cinesul 2013 (Brazil)
Audience Award & Special Jury Mention, 15th International Festival of FIDOCS Santiago 2011 (Chile)
Audience Award, International Archaeological Film Festival of Rovereto 2013 (Italy)
2012 International Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
2012 Encuentros Del Otro Cine (Ecuador)
"A film that reflects on the paradoxes of culture, indigenous peoples and science." —Carla Olivares H., El Agente (Chile)
"Passionate, committed... a tremendous history." —Ascanio Cavallo, El Mercurio (Chile)
"The film tells the tale of these people, locates their remains, and asks, "How do Chileans today look at such images, and do they have any responsibility for them? It is an important document not only about the past but about cultural survival and social justice." —Jack David Elder, Anthropology Review Database