The Chilean coup in cinema – II

Oder W. Heffer, Chileans dancing La Cueca, photography, gelatin silver print, s/d


Records of film productions that question the intricacies of the coup in Chile, dealing with the most unexpected ramifications

After a period of silence, in the present century there is a resurgence of interest in the theme of the establishment of the Pinochet dictatorship, which culminates around the half-century anniversary of the coup (1973-2023). Such intensification is felt after a period of almost oblivion, when surveys became rare after a first crop of films. From this interval onwards, I record productions that either question the intricacies of the coup, or, what increases its relevance, deal with the most unexpected ramifications. Approaches and points of view multiply.

Among them, new films by documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, author of the trilogy The battle of Chile, which, although keeping its feet in the past, would start to address its developments.  Nostalgia for light (2010) e The Pearl Button (2015) They dedicate themselves to a vast reflection on the disappeared. And we were also treated to a very important biography: Salvador Allende (2004)

From Chile, or from Chilean filmmakers in exile, other films arrive, from different directors. It is Santa Fe Street (2007), about a family of activists persecuted by the regime; or Allende, my grandfather Allende (2015), affectionate reminiscences of a granddaughter; or yet hurt (2004), which shows the friendship between two boys in Allende's time, one bourgeois and the other poor.   

We also received several films by Pablo Larraín, who shows no signs of exhausting the subject. Post Mortem (2011) frames the scam from the perspective of a morgue worker. DO NOT (2012) talks about the plebiscite called to legitimize the dictatorship and which ended in reverse after an intense progressive campaign. Neruda (2016) focuses on the police officer tasked with secretly watching the communist poet. Tony Manero (2008) deals with an imitator obsessed with the protagonist of Saturday night's party, whose tics and antics he copies in television competitions.  And more satire El Conde (2023), black-and-white horror film in which Pinochet is a vampire…

Relevant films came from foreign cinema. From Sweden, The black knight (2007), narrating the exploits of the Swedish ambassador and the risks he took to save a large number of persecuted people, sheltering them and taking them away from their executioners, to transport them outside the walls safe and sound. From Germany, love and revolution (2015), also titled Cologne, about a concentration and torture camp, run by a former Nazi officer disguised as a missionary.  Santiago, Italy (2018) is the work of the great director Nanni Moretti, who goes back to 1973 to investigate the role of Italy and its ambassador in saving those hunted with their lives in danger, like Sweden.

Brazil contributed an investigative documentary, Operation Condor (2007). The dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s predominated not only in Brazil, but throughout the Southern Cone, where the infamous Operation Condor was in force. There we see how the police and armed forces of the countries in the region formed a collusion of information and mutual services, being responsible for attacks, torture, murders, kidnappings and disappearances. And all under the control of the United States. Directed by a Brazilian, the film dismantles the machine of repression piece by piece and reveals its monstrosities.

Already the work of the next generation and entirely divergent, the theme would produce an unusual result, by focusing with a certain shift on the derivations of the coup. Directed by Costa-Gavras' daughter, Julie Gavras, It's Fidel's fault (2006), starring a girl, tells the story of the hardships of being the daughter of leftists, even in a country as civilized as France. It is worth remembering that Costa-Gavras is the director of two classic and engaging films about the Chilean coup, as well as its antecedents: State of siege (1972) and Missing (1982). Julie Gavras shows how difficult it is to understand oneself, amid the pains of growing up, in a home that hosts les bearded, as the girl explains. We certainly see there how nothing banal the experience of being the daughter of militant artists is, and the degree of mortification that comes with notoriety.

Vivacious theme, wounds to heal: a cinema in search of unusual twists capable of surprising.

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue). []

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