2001-2010ChileDocumentaryPatricio GuzmánPolitics

Patricio Guzmán – Salvador Allende (2004)

Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán has lived in Europe in exile for many years
but continues to make features about his native country. His latest, the
documentary ‘Salvador Allende’, is not a classical biography (though it has
elements of that too) but rather a chronicle of a search by the filmmaker himself,
who was greatly inspired in his youth by Allende, to see what was is left in Chile
now of Allende’s legacy, and what was it then, that made Allende an inspirational
figure for so many.

Allende became president of Chile in 1970, after three earlier, unsuccessful
runs for the presidency. He was a socialist whose coalition transformed Chile in
many ways, starting with the nationalisation of many industries. He became an
inspiring hero for the workers but was seen by the elite and bourgeoisie as a
radical whose policies led Chile to estrange itself too much from superpower
America and its allies. Indeed the US-administration under president Nixon felt
that Allende’s ideas and policies led to great harm for the American interests in
Chile itself and since it suspected Russia and Cuba of wanting to extend its
influence in Chile (something which Allende openly courted), the United States felt
that Allende’s governement threatened the balance in world security during the
Cold War.

Nixon promptly instructed the CIA to take ‘appropriate measures’. One year
before Allende’s presidency ended, in 1973, his government was upstaged in a
bloody pounding of the seat of government in a coup d’etat led by his own
general Pinochet. President Allende died, according to the autopsy report, of a
‘suicide’ during the coup, though this has been widely debated.

By presenting his documentary as a personal quest for Salvador Allende,
Patricio Guzmán creates a documentary that is refreshing in both form and
content. It is true that not all aspects of Allende’s presidency are covered as
they would have been in a more conventional biography, but Guzmán’s format
highlights something that is at least of equal importance: the reception of Allende
in the Chilean people’s minds, both during his presidency and today. His own
memories are visualised through material that he and his friends filmed when they
were young and Allende represented for them something of a hope for a brighter
future. His voice-over narration adds his thoughts of today as an extra layer, thus
presenting us with a dual picture of Guzmán’s view of Allende.

Something which adds to the topicality of this documentary is an interview
he conducted with the then US-ambassador to Chile, who takes us through
the motions of a superpower meddling with the politics of another country in a
cold-blooded close-up. It gave me a truly eerie feeling when I realised that not
much seems to have changed since the early seventies; what freaked me out
the most was the fact that the ambassador still believed that what was done
then was in fact the right thing to do, though when looking at American foreign
policy now, that should hardly have come as a surprise.

Patricio Guzmán’s documentary about Allende is a candid but necessary
step forward in the Chileans’ own acceptance of their past and how to respond to
it today. For all others it is as interesting as it is frightening, a documentary about
what happens when you are legally elected president of a nation but you do not
show yourself wanting to place foreign and corporate interests before the
interests of the people that had you elected.
(from europeanfilms.net)

700MB | 1h 39m | 592×320 | avi


Language(s):Spanish – English (U.S. ambassador interview)

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