THE COLONY, an award-winning short film concerning the disappearance of Penn State professor Boris Weisfeiler in Chile, will make its Northern California debut at the Santa Cruz Film Festival on May 13th. But the filmmakers aren’t seeking awards – they hope the screening will prompt Governor Schwarzenegger to bring up the case when he meets with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on June 12th.
Boris Weisfeiler vanished while backpacking in Chile in 1985. Although the official U.S. position was that he drowned, embassy staffers in Santiago long suspected that Weisfeiler was picked up by the Chilean military, who thought he was a spy, and turned over to Colonia Dignidad — a sinister religious sect run by former Nazis and used as a political prison by the Pinochet regime. Neither the Chilean government or the U.S. actively pursued an investigation into these reports.
“I first heard about the case on Public Radio International in 2001, and I couldn’t believe there were still Nazis down there killing and terrorizing people, and nothing was being done about it,” says THE COLONY writer/director Steven List. His outrage led him to contact Weisfeiler’s sister, Olga, who’d been pursuing her own search for nearly a decade.
The resultant film is a harrowing look at what likely happened to Weisfeiler in the notorious torture center, and his sister’s efforts to discover the truth about his fate from indifferent U.S. officials.
Amnesty International estimates that more than 100 opponents of Pinochet’s dictatorship vanished at Colonia Dignidad. Paul Shaeffer, the former Nazi who founded the colony, was captured in 2005 and awaits trial in Chile on political murder charges. However, the case is stalled due to opposition from government elements still loyal to Pinochet. Shaeffer, who is 86, is pleading senility to avoid further prosecution, and the judge in the case has rejected offers of help from U.S. agencies, including the FBI.
Olga Weisfeiler worries that since Shaeffer quite literally knows “where the bodies are buried,” he will be allowed to die in prison, taking the secrets of what happened at Colonia Dignidad to the grave.
“I’d like to ask Governor Schwarzenegger to bring up the issue of my brother’s disappearance with President Bachelet,” says Weisfeiler. Though he isn’t a federal official, “An inquiry by (Schwarzenegger) in such a setting will put pressure on public officials here and in Chile to finally discover what really happened to my brother and who is responsible.”
THE COLONY screens on May 13th, at 2:00 PM. Press who cannot attend may use this link to watch the film on-line:www.stevenjlist.com
Steven List will appear on the Documentary and Docu-Drama Filmmaking panel on Saturday, May 10th at 3:00 PM. Visit www.santacruzfilmfestival.com for details.
For information on the Weisfeiler case, visit www.weisfeiler.com.