In a small town in Patagonia (Southern Argentina), a Mapuche Indian chief sets a tourist complex under construction on fire. He denies all attempts to defend himself. Locked up, he waits for the arrival of "Caleuche," ...展开the Ship (Nave) of Fools (de los locos), a mythical figure of his ancestral strength which "made" him start the fire. An appointed lawyer (a white woman) comes to the chief's defence, alleging the chief had acted in self-defense as the white man was building commercial structures on the sacred burial grounds of his ancestors, and continued doing so even after heated protests.
This exceptional Spanish/Argentine co-production is part anti-development, pro-natural "green" habitat pic, part family drama (explored from both the Native Indian and the "European" sides), part human greed story, part Greek tragedy, part anti-colonialist and Neo-colonialist (the Spanish investors) study, and ultimately a courtroom drama about the moral conflicts that always have and continue to be inherent in the development of the Americas by outsiders, usually Europeans. This long agenda is addressed pretty well in a relatively short 109 minutes. It is a theme that is not often explored in South American cinema (though North American Cinema has hardly made many films either which explore this unpopular theme: the unfair and inhumane treatment of Native Americans, at whose expense, and whose land has made the Americas the "Europeanized" wonder it is today). Aside from the fascinating and all-too-important messages, the film offers gorgeous cinematography of the very spectacular terrain of Patagonia, and features memorable performances from Spanish vets Marisa Paredes and Fernando Guillen (both of Almodovar fame) and the legendary Argentine actress and "national goddess" China Zorrilla.