This film declares 'history is written by the winners', then attempts to somehow condemn the torturous and barbaric atrocities perpetuated by the soldiers controlled by the iron hand of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to the realms of amnesia. However, such a tragic history proves impossible forget and ghosts past and present haunt Ramirez and his friend Carrasco.
Their nemesis proves to be Captain Zuniga, and the plot flashes backwards forwards from a barren northern desert concentration camp for political prisoners, where the Captain carries out the orders from his superiors without a twinge of conscience towards the end of the dictatorship. This is juxtaposed with scenes from the rainy post-dictatorship setting of coastal town Valparaiso, where Zuniga reunites with those who suffered under his orders. Both settings are sad, lonely locations reflecting the tragedy and sense of foreboding death of living under a dictatorship and of having to deal with the guilt of baring witness to massacre.
The gloomy settings and un-censored violence portrayed by Justiniano reveal two things. Firstly that Chilean national films have progressed to the point where such images are not viewed as subversive, but sadly, that the period of subversion continues to censor day-to-day life and memories seek the refuge of forgetting, of the past evaporating into amnesia. 'We have to learn to forget' muses Zuniga, 'One must look to the future'. That is difficult, as those moralistic enough not to conform to the patriotic legitimizing of socialist genocide practised by Pinochet, such as Ramirez and Carrasco learn.
However depressing this film may appear, its values lie in its regeneration of Chilean cinema. Chilean accents provide dialogues to Chilean plots in quintessentially Chilean places, and help to continue the artistic tradition of socialism in this country. Allusions to future hope can be seen in the survival of the pregnant lady, who declares her child 'is going to be a girl and will be called Tanya'. This echoes Isabel Allende's reclaiming of the past through the strength of female lineage and literature, as her character Blanca reveals her daughter 'will be a girl and will be called Alba'. It also shows the true value of artistic tradition, as the film reveals that Pinochet's famous quote, 'In this country not one leaf moves without me knowing about it', to have come from 1001 Arabian Nights. Here, Scheherazade has to continue the trend of storytelling to stay alive. By telling the story of the past, Justiniano attempts to revitalise Chilean cinema, exorcising the demons of the past, so that in the present, these leaves can move without the dictator stopping them.
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