Battle of Chile Part 1

Patricio Guzman released this film in 1973 in an attempt to sum up the events surrounding the reception, resistance, and overthrow of the Popular Unity government in Chile under Allende from 1970 to 1973. The events historically are still hotly contested. The U.S. Associated Press releases all summed up the fall as the inevitable disaster of trying to force socialism on an unwilling public. Guzmanís film is extremely leftist and places the blame for the end of Popular Unity upon CIA sabotage and "bourgeoisie" interests in the other two parties.

The first title announces "the insurrection of the bourgeois"." The film begins with interviews of people milling about on the street "flag-waving" right before the 1970 election. The film identifies that the Popular Unity movement is a confederation of six other little factions. The film also identifies the other two major parties as the Christian Democrats and the LOC, conservative national party. From the interviews it becomes clear against the grain of the filmmakers intent that there is not really much unity in the Popular Unity Party.

Guzman found a drunk clubfooted midget with Turrets syndrome to operate the camera for his documentary. The camera is handheld all the way through and continually wanders away from whoever is talking to look at the ceiling. Nausea and Dizziness accompany trying to pay close attention to this film. The cameraman also confused the focus ring on his camera with the f-stop ring and the exposure is constantly shifting. Clearly the unabashed presentation of this awkwardness is to imply the same kind of constructed "realism" that the Italian neo-realists were up to. This is important in analyzing just how much this lends to dramatizing real events and possibly even to creating a "Hawthorne effect" whereby the interviewed respond differently just because they know they are being watched.

"Hoarding and the Black Market" is a title that introduces a bit on interviewing people standing in line complaining about speculators. There is footage on food clubs of kinds and the documentary presents it as a problem before Allende - but one that he can fix. Ration cards are issued. Christian Democrats maintain that these shortages were caused by going Socialist and that Allende only made it worse.

"Parliamentary Boycott" announces what the filmmakers rage about being the unethical impeachment of Senators every ten days. The snotty sounding female narrator goes on and on with"the opposition,,,bourgeousie" name calling. This monologue L-cuts over scenes of a collection plate getting passed. This is clearly oblivious to the effect that laws were not getting broken in the process of impeachment. Democratically elected officials may be filibustering and jockeying for power, but they still do so in representation of a constituency. The sense that there might be a significant percent of the population not happy with Socialism is completely dodged by the filmmakers.

Within this chapter is a particularly grotesque attempt to dramatize the truth and what is self-evident as a picture. The snotty female narrator announces "Fatherland and Freedom Nationalist Front" and then calls them "shock troops." These "shock troops" all look like boy scouts with funny hats.

"Student Rioting" is announced. The Christian Democrat headquarters fires upon a huge mob of marching screaming adults who are throwing debris. They kill one and wound seven.

"Public Transportation" is downed a third by U.S. denial of parts announces the film. The film also puts this in before explaining how the supply of Copper is cut off. Chile owed the US money, the copper etc. was a means of negotiating that debt. There is nothing wrong at all with the US boycott. Insofar as the CIA sabotaged the rest of transportation by crippling the private buses and factory trucks that were used seems wrong. Noam Chomsky has discussed at length the fact that 45 million dollars got pumped into the Chilean military over these two years of Socialist reign.

"Copper Strike" announces a thoroughly unlikable last half hour of the film. All but one speaker lack all Kairos and Decorum. The speakers all wave their hands and shout and remind anyone of the speeches of Adolf Hitler. The only calm speaker is one at a Union meeting who cautions against stepping on the interests of Swiss banks. To show their support of Allende, the copper miners partied like it was Mardi Gras downtown for three months not producing any copper and ruining the Chilean economy for almost eternity. They are seen doing absurd antics like gathering in the hundred thousands to scream "Jump if youíre not a Fascist," and then proceeding to do so. Allende seems like a pretty smart guy and he must have been shaking his head thinking "Boy my constituents are dumb silly yahoos!" The strike cost Chile 46 million by June 28th.

On June 29th six tanks attack the capital. They are a faction off of the military who are obviously sick of the all-day party protest. They order people off the street. The shaky drunk midget cameraman runs forward towards an aimed gun and gets shot at like six times. The cameraman is obviously insane to rush open fire. He then gets mortally wounded and falls. His footage is shown as it rolls out a good eight or nine times at the end of the documentary.

The documentary presents Pinochet as Darth Vader. One must wonder how Guzman would treat Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great in a documentary. Most contemporary Christian Democrats or Conservative Party survivors do not consider Pinochet that bad. Under him the economy did get better. Most feel that he stayed in power too long, but then also feel that there were not any good substitutes around. The filmmakers are really naive in trying to put an ideology onto the CIA, DEA, NSA, Mossad, KGB, M15, and other shadow op groups. The real truth is that everything is economics, nations and boundaries are just for PR - those black ops are all buddies, this is their game. People get killed and that sucks, donít get me wrong - but attaching the melodramatic Manichaen opposition to the issues involved with the Popular Unity thing are just plain naive.


Last Updated on 02/02/00
By JR Kerr
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