After decades of fascist rule in Chile, Patricio Guzman returns to his country to screen his documentary, Battle of Chile, which until the time of the filming was banned by authorities. His... See full summary »
After decades of fascist rule in Chile, Patricio Guzman returns to his country to screen his documentary, Battle of Chile, which until the time of the filming was banned by authorities. His audience, a new generation of Chileans who remember little of the revolution and ensuing coup reflect on their experience of watching the film after so many years of suppression. Written by
Neal Grigsby <email@example.com>
Having watched this film twice, I am compelled to say it cannot be fully understood without seeing the original and earlier film upon which it is based. The viewer must also have an opportunity to form an opinion as to how it relates to certain historical facts. Without that additional information, any comments rendered here become superficial.
This documentary is about another, earlier documentary -- as seen through the eyes of a generation once removed from the events upon which the first documentary relied to advance its thesis. Got that? Good.
Now imagine you know nothing about Chile except that it produces passably good wine. The first thing to do before watching this film is to read history, noting how Chile was at first a smallish colony of Spain attached to Argentina, its larger neighbor to the east, as well as to the more important colony of Peru on the north. Independence came at the start of the nineteenth century. Most inhabitants today are European in origin, including a very large component of Germans in the south. Native Americans are found in abundance in the large cities and in the north.
Chile's history into the twentieth century paralleled to some extent that of Argentina, its erstwhile rival on the other side of the Andes. Wars were fought, capitalism thrived, and North American and European money poured into the country's mines and rich agricultural lands. A large social and economic underclass formed as the result of too little land to sustain any agrarian movement, and the gap between rich and poor was always wide.
Enter socialism in 1936. By the 1960's, a kind of populist movement similar to (but not the same as) Peronism in Argentina threatened vested foreign and domestic interests. This movement resulted in the peaceful accession to the presidency of Salvador Allende Gossens in 1970. It was not long, however, before its more extreme nationalistic and communistic elements began expropriations and other questionable attacks on private property.
Enter the Yankee CIA and the usual suspects from the Right. By 1973, a reactionary alliance of Chile's military and upper classes employing tactics of intrigue, subversion, and misinformation found enough support to attempt a brutal and successful coup d'etat against the Allende government. Almost by accident, film director Guzman was able to capture the "battle of Chile" on footage that was suppressed until the late 1990's, shown only abroad until he returned after fascism had been rooted out. "Chile, la memoria obstinada" is his 1997 effort to document reactions of today's Chileans to his earlier work.
If you have read this far, you now know how to begin viewing the film in question. Pieces of the original "battle of Chile" are ugly reminders of what we would call today terrorism of brother against brother. Interviews of young and old provide contrasting emotions as young Chileans see the older film for the first time. It is at once powerful, yet of necessity incomplete, reportage. As a documentary, it succeeds where technique and development of singular strands of thought do not. One wishes there could be more, but when a life ends prematurely as the result of assassination or "disappearance," there is nothing left.
The viewer must draw his own conclusions as to who were the good guys and who the bad guys in this sad story. You can guess by now where this reviewer comes down on that question.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?