Chilean Filmmaker Patricio Guzmán Talks Exile, Trauma, and Revolution



On September 11, 1973, a army coup in Chile overthrew President Salvador Allende. Beforehand famend as South America’s most steady democracy, the nation turned a crucible for neoliberalism below the dictatorship of Basic Augusto Pinochet. Throughout these years, tens of 1000’s of residents had been imprisoned, tortured, murdered, and/or disappeared. 

Lots of of 1000’s fled the fear, amongst them leftist filmmaker Patricio Guzmán. Only a few years prior, he had directed his first characteristic, a celebratory have a look at the myriad progressive insurance policies and social packages that Allende’s administration had applied in its early days, fittingly known as The First 12 months. In 1973, amid right-wing agitation, a concerted opposition motion in authorities, and rising militaristic rumblings (all supported behind the scenes by the CIA), Guzmán and a small crew took to the streets to movie protests, counter-protests, and finally the army storming Santiago. After the coup, he settled in France, the place he stays immediately, finally turning the footage they captured into the three-part epic The Battle of Chile. Among the many most necessary documentaries and political movies ever made, its portrait of revolutionary fervor and the ferocity of counterrevolution stays bracingly intense 50 years later — the primary half ends with one of many movie’s cameramen recording the second of his personal dying by the hands of the army.

Guzmán has continued to make documentaries on his homeland within the many years since, first from exile after which in Chile, after with the ability to return. A lot of his work offers with the coup, the dictatorship, and their respective aftermaths: The misplaced promise of Allende’s presidency, enduring private and collective trauma, the continued risk for brand new revolution. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the coup and have fun the latest restorations of The First 12 months and The Battle of Chile, Icarus Movies and Cinema Tropical have partnered with Anthology Movie Archives, IFC Middle, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music to display a retrospective of Guzmán’s films in New York. The collection additionally contains his trilogy of films relating parts of Chile’s geography to the lingering effects of the dictatorship, in addition to his most up-to-date characteristic, My Imaginary Country, about modern protests within the nation.

Forward of the collection, Hyperallergic sat down with Guzmán over Zoom and, with the assistance of a translator, mentioned the hazards of filming in the course of the coup and all that occurred after. This interview has been edited and condensed for size and readability.

Military arrests on the Moneda, September 11, 1973, a scene from Patricio Guzmán’s THE BATTLE OF CHILE, an Icarus Movies Residence Video launch.

Hyperallergic: What led you to begin work on The First 12 months proper out of movie college?

Patricio Guzmán: I wished to movie that spectacular second in Chile. The marketing campaign of Salvador Allende precipitated an enormous mobilization in all elements of society. He was the primary socialist president elected democratically. Chile had develop into a revolutionary nation. It was an period stuffed with pleasure, of hope, of fascinating initiatives. I felt I wanted to doc it.

H: Did you might have a movie in thoughts whenever you began capturing the occasions main as much as the coup, or did you merely need to doc what was taking place? It was clearly harmful for you; Half I ends with the digital camera falling to the bottom and the picture going darkish as a result of the person holding it was shot and killed.

PG: We had a group of 5 folks, and we had been writing the script as we had been going alongside. We wished to only present this second. Allende was on the peak of his charisma and mobilization, and witnessing it made us so passionate. This was an period when politics had been a complete spectacle of manifestos, political events, mass participation.

Leonardo Henrichsen, a cameraman from Argentina, is the one you communicate of who we see dying in Battle of Chile. Two months earlier than the coup, he was shot within the breast by a army officer. One other crew member, Jorge Müller, disappeared the 12 months after the coup. He had an incredible expertise for the digital camera, and he shot footage till the movie ran out. He was assassinated with his girlfriend, an actress.

We handed via many exhausting occasions. We had been imprisoned in a camp with others for a number of days; it was stuffed with vans and buses. Fortunately, the officers had been informed to retreat, and we had been capable of escape. Primarily, we had many encounters with the suitable. At the moment, the suitable in Chile had a militia group known as Fatherland and Liberty, they usually had been harmful folks. Filming was stuffed with obstacles as a result of the suitable at all times tried to cease it.

Salvador Allende making a speech in The Battle of Chile, dir. Patricio Guzmán, 1975–78

H: You had been one of many tens of 1000’s of individuals imprisoned within the Nationwide Stadium within the aftermath of the coup, and also you left the nation not lengthy after you had been launched. How did you determine to settle in France afterward?

PG: I left the Nationwide Stadium after 15 days. They let me go as a result of they figured I wasn’t harmful, they usually basically picked me out together with the remainder of my crew. I bought into contact with college students in Madrid as a result of I studied there and had buddies there. I left for Madrid with our cameraman, the producer of the movie, and our sound man. 

Then I went to Paris as a result of one of many individuals who was necessary within the historical past of this film is Chris Marker. He visited Chile in 1971 and had seen The First 12 months, and he inspired me. Chris shipped us an enormous quantity of movie via the airport after we had been making Battle of Chile. Once I was in exile, he contacted me and helped us full the movie, and I finally went to Havana to edit it.

H: You needed to smuggle the footage you’d shot out of Chile. How was this completed?

PG: We went to the Cuban embassy in Santiago, and the ambassador informed us to ship the inventory to Sweden, and it will then be despatched to Havana. He was unimaginable. We left it with him, and it was in transit or holding for a very long time, after which lastly they known as us. Miraculously, nothing was lacking, and we edited the footage there in Cuba. That was after we realized we had a lot precious materials, and the one doable approach to embody all of it was to divide the movie into a number of elements. 

H: When did you first really feel secure sufficient to return to Chile?

PG: I first returned two years earlier than Pinochet fell. It was a very completely different nation, one which I didn’t acknowledge. A rustic stuffed with army Jeeps and machine weapons, silent, damage, and wounded, a ghost nation. A rustic that had been smashed. It was a tragedy. I used to be in full anguish. I went to the Vicariate of Solidarity, which was organized by the Catholic Church. Its mission was to assist individuals who had been persecuted after which left in the course of the coup. That’s the place I bought the thought for the next film I made.

H: You’ve tracked Chile’s historical past and developments for over 50 years now. Do you see a lot distinction in how younger folks with no lived reminiscence of the dictatorship consider it, versus individuals who lived via it?

PG: There’s a motion of college college students who’re creating great issues in Chile proper now. They’ve a sure confidence sooner or later. And there’s a left-leaning authorities. However it’s nonetheless a rustic that has been severely hit, and there are nonetheless numerous social tensions, with many social packages that don’t operate. It’s due to the category of people that personal business, they’re all on the suitable, and that also creates an issue.

Nonetheless from Nostalgia for the Mild, dir. Patricio Guzmán, 2010

Patricio Guzmán, Dreaming of Utopia: 50 Years of Revolutionary Hope and Memory screens at numerous venues in New York from September 8 to fifteen.


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