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In 1960, José del Carmen Valenzuela Torres, from the small town of Nahueltoro in Chile, brutally murdered Rosa Rivas Acuña and her five children. This classic film of the Latin American cinema is based on testimonies provided by the murderer himself while he was being prosecuted and the journalists who interviewed him before his sentence was executed. Thirty two months after the massacre at age 23 and after learning how to read and write, "The Jackal of Nahueltoro" faced a firing squad. Written by
This movie has haunted me for over 30 years--since the one and only time I have seen it. The images that I recall were black & white in a straightforward documentary style, but much stronger than most due to its unflinching eye. The camera watches a grindingly poor Chilean "indio" meet a destitute widow and her several small children who have been evicted from their hut and cast into the street. Later, in a drunken rage at his own inability--and what seems to be his recognition that they will come to nothing better--he brutally murders them (the title is from a tabloid headline, I think). While awaiting execution he is cleaned-up, learns to read, and begins to have an inkling of consciousness of the world beyond. And that is the supremely powerful and heartbreaking irony: he has become the opposite of "The Jackal of Nahueltoro"--a good citizen.
I almost never run into anyone who has ever seen or even heard of this film, but in its own small way, it is a masterpiece.
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