There Is Dark Real-World Backstory Behind Chile's 2022 Oscar-Nominated Short, 'Bestia'
This weekend, Chileans might have yet another reason for hating Netflix besides being used as a testing ground for password-sharing fees. It's very possible that the streaming giant's short film Robin Robin, featuring Gillian Anderson and Richard E. Grant, will win the Oscar for Best Animated Short, beating out Chile's Bestia, which features zero X-Files or Hudson Hawk cast members. It also doesn't help that Robin Robin is a feel-good Christmas tale while Bestia is ... the opposite of feel-good. As it should be, because this innocent-looking (at first, anyway) stop motion short is based on a real-life story of shocking cruelty that destroyed dozens of lives.
Bestia is about a porcelain doll-looking woman who travels to a basement every day, plays disco music on a cassette player, and then lets a dog do horrible things to people trapped there. That sounds like a metaphor for something, but no, that part is frighteningly literal: the short is based on the life of Ingrid Olderock, a CIA-trained agent of Chile's dictatorship-era secret police who worked in a torture center located inside of a regular suburban home.
(Note: contains brief stop motion doll nudity.)
The place was sometimes called "The Discotheque" due to the agents' tendency to play extremely loud music to hide the sound of screaming torture victims from their neighbors (anything from Julio Iglesias to George Harrison to, fittingly, the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange).
The stuff with the dog is, sadly, also accurate. Olderock was known as "the Woman of the Dogs" because she trained her pet German Shepherd, Volodya, to rape and torture prisoners as young as 19 years old. If anything, Bestia undersells the horror that went on in that place. As documented by the survivors, female prisoners were kept nude except for the blindfold that covered their eyes at all times, and Olderock's purportedly human co-workers would feed them feces and sexually assault them whenever they felt like it. We said this place was "sometimes" called "The Discotheque" because Chile's government agents had another name for it: "Venda Sexy" ("Sexy Blindfold").
In 1981, Olderock decided to leave the secret police (as well as the regular police, where was a decorated major) and was promptly shot in the head by a member of a leftist guerrilla group. She survived and later said that the hit was orchestrated by her cop pals as a going away present. After the dictatorship ended, she used the bullet lodged in her head as an excuse for the convenient memory gaps that didn't allow her to answer questions about her government work. She claimed she had no idea what her victims were talking about -- that "I Love My Dog" sticker on her car (skip to 2:00 below) was totally not there just to mock them. Like all of the dictatorship's collaborators, once left to her own devices this proud “savior of the country” turned into a feeble coward.
But, while she played dumb about some things, Olderock was pretty candid about others: she was openly a Nazi, having been raised by Hitler-sympathizing German immigrants, and claimed that all that death and torture that went on in Chile, whoever did it, was justified. Despite everything, she died in complete impunity in 2001, having never even been put to trial -- which isn't that surprising for a country that only last year gave 44% of the presidential election vote (and a first round majority) to another Nazi-raised Chilean who once campaigned to extend the genocidal dictatorship and still praises it to this day. Because anything goes when it comes to saving your country from a vague idea of "communism" you can't consistently define, even using animals to torture teenagers.
Anyway, best of luck to Bestia against Netflix this Sunday.
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Top image: Hugo Covarrubias