From his childhood in Valparaiso to his death during the Pinochet military coup on September 11, 1973, the life and works of Chilean president Salvador Allende.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Himself (archive footage)
Narrator (voice)
Jacques Bidou ...
Narrator (voice)
Alejandro Gonzáles ...
Himself (as Alejandro 'Mono' Gonzáles)
Ema Malig ...
Anita ...
Victor Pey ...
Sergio Vuskovic ...
Edward Korry ...
Himself (as Edward M. Korry)
Isabel Allende Bussi ...
Herself - Salvador Allende's Daughter (as Isabel Allende)
Ernesto Salamanca ...
Carmen Paz ...
Claudina Nuñez ...
Volodia Teitelboim ...
Carlos Pino ...


From his childhood in Valparaiso to his death during the Pinochet military coup on September 11, 1973, the life and works of Chilean president Salvador Allende.

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5 September 2007 (USA)  »

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Salvador Allende: History is ours, and the people make it to build a better society.
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Biographical documentary chronicling the life and political history of Salvador Allende champion of Chilean democracy and the Chilean people.
6 May 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Salvador Allende is another of Guzman's master pieces that painstakingly documents the many layers of humanity that unfold before our eyes in hope, anger, and tragedy. Unlike the Battle of Chile, and Chile Obstinate Memory, this film chronicles the life of the man who came to symbolise the historic leap into to the dark of hope for a nation. It fuses the historical time line of the other two films into a compelling testament of one man's fate, Salvador Allende, who is propelled by the human misery, suffering, despair and defiant struggle of the Chilean masses, and who in turn propels the Chilean people to a democratic and constitutional victory over the domestic and international forces arraigned against Chilean sovereignty.

For those who know little of the historic and defining moments of the Chilean tragedy that is 'the other 9/11' that generally goes unmentioned and unmourned as a catastrophe of international significance, this film brings the history of Chilean democracy to life. From the early familial and political influences that shaped Allende's view of history and the world he inhabited, to the momentous assumption of the presidential sash, we are privileged with a feast of images that capture the moment. These moments reflect a bold and proud figure in deference and service to the people with whose fate Allende is inextricably bound. We get a glimpse of Allende as an endearing little boy in the care of a house maid whom Allende continued to see and hold in great affection throughout his life, even when he was president. The poignant personal reflections of the housemaid and her daughter, and those of Allende's political mentors and comrades, paints a picture of an intellectually cultivated, libertarian, thoughtful and compassionate man whose destiny is to serve. And it is the ebb and flow of Allende's long service to Chilean democracy that this film chronicles. There are breath taking cinematographic accounts of Allende campaigning the length and breadth of Chile along the country's railroads, swarmed by supporters, in his various electoral bids for high office over a period of some forty years. On the assumption of the presidency in 1970, we witness the huge popularity and affection in which this towering figure of the people is held. The historic occasion of the first ever democratically elected Marxist president is captured on screen with a poignancy that is both retrospectively informed, from what we have learned about this man up to now, and that is portent to a future tragedy we now know. In frightening contrast to the humanity of this man of the people who celebrates and communicates his joy with his supporters out in the open, the film congeals glimpses of the dark clouds of deceit, treachery and treason in the stiff collared, emotionless backdrop officer cabal of the military, always waiting in the wings, motionless and opaque. And it is here that Guzman fuses the aesthetic sensibility of the historical docu-drama, with the perspicacity and political acumen of someone who has borne witness to a terrible tragedy the lessons of which are worth considering.

Interspersed throughout the film are the reflections of the US ambassador at the time. His avuncular and good humoured demeanour contrasts with the the bleak, sinister and anti democratic invective he dredges up about the 'Marxist-Leninist' threat and scourge that Allende represented for the region. This curiously, in spite of the films detailed scrutiny of both, Allendes scrupulous observance of, and loyalty to the democratic and constitutional path, and his rejection of Marxist-Leninist doctrine encapsulated in political nostrums opposed to liberal democracy such as 'the dictatorship of the proletariat'. Nevertheless the reflective musings of the ambassador ironically provides the film with some serious footage of a class warrior enunciating the principles of class war according to US foreign policy. If it were not the fact that we know that it is the representative of the US government who is speaking, we could be forgiven for complimenting him on the precision of his grasp of the class struggle that was being played out in Chile at the time. Towards the end of the film he makes it clear that the Chilean bourgeoisie could not be expected, and was not going to accept the diminution in its wealth, power and privilege just because Chilean democracy, the will of the Chilean people had voted for such measures. The sheer obviousness of this statement to anyone on the left nevertheless has the shattering effect of unifying what has preceded into a compelling memory of what was, and what could have been. For instance, we are treated to some rare footage of Castro's visit to Chile under Allende, addressing a public rally. He emphasises the great experiment underway in Chile. This is surely an experiment that observes the rules of liberal democracy while remaining loyal to changing the socio economic structure of inequality and injustice. Again, we are privy to heated debate and exchange among workers representatives about the need to organize parallel organs of security among the people, because the military are an organ of state allied to the bourgeoisie from whence their officer class comes.

Early on in the film Guzman refers to the utopian project that propelled the Chilean masses in support of Allende. There is a compelling ambiguity in this characterisation that gives the film its contemporary resonance. Were the aspirations of the Chilean people articulated by Allende's Popular Unity coalition utopian, or was the liberal democratic means by which Allende sought to do political battle with the Chilean bourgeoisie utopian? By continuing to keep Allende's memory and what happened in Chile on that 'other 9/11' alive, Guzman holds forth a torch of hope that is now burning in Venezuela and Bolivia. We can only hope that the lessons of the democratic path pioneered by Allende and the Chilean people with such tragic consequences, have been considered and understood, and that the people of those countries are organized and prepared for the anti-democratic backlash.

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