40 Years On: The Narration of Chilean Resistance and Exile in Cinema

Winnipeg Cinematheque

Thur Sept 12 to Sun Sept 15, 2013

September 11, 1973 is the day Chile’s democratic government was overthrown by a brutal and bloody CIA-backed military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet. The events of this day and the aftermath not only profoundly changed a country, but also changed the course of individual lives, mine among them.

Forty years on, the investigation and interpretation of what actually happened in Chile has triggered a large body of cinema into existence around the world. While the essential elements of what happened are largely now without dispute, immersed within the core truths that surround this history, however, are a myriad of smaller and lesser known stories and perspectives – incredibly complex and telling of human nature, many still in the process of rising to public consciousness.

Internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán’s biography of President Salvador Allende provides a starting point to understanding this history that began long before September 11, 1973. In different degrees, both Salvador Allende and Agustín’s Newspaper (Ignacio Agüero) reflect on the role private media played in triggering the coup and in hiding and defending human rights violations. The role of graffiti on public property, in particular, is seen to act as an old-school version of today’s social media platforms, providing a powerful challenge to perspectives reflected in traditional media. Agustin’s Newspaper to this day remains blocked from being broadcast on Chilean TV, through a combination of both delays and outright censorship.

The feature film Machuca (Andrés Wood) reflects on the same time period, dramatizing very human and often contradictory experiences, where individual human ethics were tested.

The Chicago Conspiracy (Subversive Action Films) and The Chilean Building (Macarena Aguiló) reflect on experiences of the MIR, Chile’s revolutionary left movement, which maintained very distinct political philosophies from the more mainstream and centrist (as surprising as this might sound to the average North American) Chilean Socialist and Communist parties.

In the late 1970’s, the MIR called its militants back from exile to wage an underground revolution against the Pinochet regime. This campaign is the back-drop of Vancouver-based Carmen Aguirre’s bestselling autobiography, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. The independent documentary The Chilean Building recounts the story of over 60 communally raised children in Europe and then Cuba, through the MIR’s “Project Home,” which enabled their parents to return to Chile to be part of the revolutionary cause while keeping their children safe in an environment constructed around their core philosophical values. This project, like the revolutionary campaign against Pinochet in Chile, eventually fell apart, leaving a conflicted legacy among the children.

The underground documentary The Chicago Conspiracy looks at the ongoing impact of Pinochet’s economic policies within the re-emerging Chilean democracy. This documentary uses as its starting point the death of two MIR youth wing members and brothers, Rafael and Eduardo Vergara, at the hands of police on March 29, 1985 – triggering the Day of the Youth Combatant, a revolutionary day of remembrance that exists in Chile still to this day.

The internationally recognized No (Pablo Larraín) dramatizes the important events that led up to the eventual and largely peaceful ousting of Pinochet as president, and considers the important contribution of a younger Chilean generation in the transformation of attitudes in Chile towards supporting a transition to democracy. No is not a film without its own controversy, however, as its director comes from a powerful and wealthy family within the Chilean oligarchy that benefited from the Pinochet regime. The fact that this film reflecting an important milestone in Chile’s return to democracy was made by this particular director, is reflective of a younger generation of filmmakers that is perhaps more enigmatic in their political beliefs than their older counterparts.

Violeta Went to Heaven is a fictionalized biography of the legendary Violeta Parra, whose folk songs have become Latin American standards. Director Andrés Wood (also the director of Machuca) traces her life from her impoverished roots through to international fame, which is ultimately tempered by a lack of recognition for her talents in Chile while she was alive, due to the country’s defacto class system. Though Parra died a few years before Chile’s coup, this film establishes an important background to the extreme divide between the rich and poor in Chile that set the stage to facilitate the rise of Salvador Allende.

The two short films in this program, Even if my hands were full of truths and Pinochet’s Women, provide the perspective of a younger generation of filmmakers who grew up in exile – in this case, in Canada. The work of Chilean-Canadian filmmakers Francisca Duran and Eduardo Menz is decidedly more experimental in nature in comparison to their non-hyphenated Chilean counterparts, an aesthetic that is perhaps a reflection of the influence of the country in which they grew up when reflecting on their experiences as Chileans.


SALVADOR ALLENDE | Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Internationally acclaimed director Patricio Guzmán provides a compelling personal biography of President Salvador Allende in attempting to understand Allende’s impact on his own life and his nation’s political history.

  • Plays with: EVEN IF MY HANDS WERE FULL OF TRUTHS (8 mins)

THE CHICAGO CONSPIRACY | Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 9:00 PM
This underground documentary begins on March 29, 1985, when Rafael and Eduardo Vergara were gunned down by police as they walked through the politically active community of Villa Francia, and focuses on the legacy of dictatorship within the new Chilean democracy.

AGUSTIN’S NEWSPAPER | Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 7:00 PM
This award winning documentary follows a group of university students as they investigate how Chile’s most influential newspaper, El Mercurio, manipulated information to hide human rights violations carried out during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

  • Plays with: PINOCHET’S WOMEN (12 mins)

NO | Fri Sep 13 & Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 9:00 PM
In 1988, Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet was forced to call a plebiscite on his presidency due to international pressure. Against all odds, a brash young ad executive and his team devise an audacious plan to win the election and set Chile free.

MACHUCA | Sat Sep 14, 2013 at 7:00 PM
An astonishingly intimate and painful coming-of-age story about a pair of 12-year-old boys from opposite extremes of society who form an unlikely friendship during the last days of President Allende and the first days of Pinochet.

VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN | Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 3:00 PM
The extraordinary story of the iconic Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra, whose songs have become hymns for all Latin Americans and who was integral to the development of the Chilean “nueva canción” (new song) movement that used music as a tool for social change.

THE CHILEAN BUILDING | Sun Sep 15, 2013 at 7:00 PM
This story has never been documented before: While their parents battled Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, a group of children were raised communally, first in Europe and then in Cuba.