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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Battle of Chile (1976)



La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas - Segunda parte: El golpe de estado (1976)

On September 11, 1973, President Salvador Allende’s democratically-elected Chilean government was overthrown in a bloody coup by General Augusto Pinochet's army. Patricio Guzmán and five colleagues had been filming the political developments in Chile throughout the nine months leading up to that day. 

The bombing of the Presidential Palace, during which Allende died, would now become the ending for Guzmán’s seminal documentary THE BATTLE OF CHILE, an epic chronicle of that country's open and peaceful socialist revolution, and of the violent counter-revolution against it.

After its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and winning eight Grand Prize awards at other international festivals, when THE BATTLE OF CHILE came to the United States it was immediately hailed by critics as “Spellbinding”, “Overwhelming”, and as “An epic!” The Village Voice called it “The major political film of our time,”4 and the San Francisco Chronicle “A landmark in the presentation of living history on film.”5 Long banned in Chile after Pinochet’s coup, only in 1997 could Guzmán return to show THE BATTLE OF CHILE there for the first time. CHILE, OBSTINATE MEMORY (included on the fourth disc here) is the extraordinarily moving record of that homecoming, and a fitting conclusion to a “thrilling documentary double feature,”6 “the unusual opportunity to see one film artist sustain an inquiry into the life of a troubled country over the course of decades.”

THE BATTLE OF CHILE (Part 1): The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie (96 minutes) examines the escalation of rightist opposition following the left's unexpected victory in Congressional elections held in March, 1973. Finding that democracy would not stop Allende's socialist policies, the right-wing shifted its tactics from the polls to the streets. The film follows months of activity as a variety of increasingly violent tactics are used by the right to weaken the government and provoke a crisis.

THE BATTLE OF CHILE (Part 2): The Coup d'Etat (88 minutes) opens with the attempted military coup of June, 1973 which is put down by troops loyal to the government. It serves as a useful dry run, however, for the final showdown, that everyone now realizes is coming. The film shows a left divided over strategy, while the right methodically lays the groundwork for the military seizure of power. The film's dramatic concluding sequence documents the coup d'etat, including Allende's last radio messages to the people of Chile, footage of the military assault on the presidential palace, and that evening's televised presentation of the new military junta.

THE BATTLE OF CHILE (Part 3): The Power of the People :
THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE deals with the creation by ordinary workers and peasants of thousands of local groups of "popular power" to distribute food, occupy, guard and run factories and farms, oppose black market profiteering, and link together neighborhood social service organizations. First these local groups of "popular power" acted as a defense against strikes and lock-outs by factory owners, tradesmen and professional bodies opposed to the Allende government, then increasingly as Soviet-type bodies demanding more resolute action by the government against the right.

"Part III is every bit as powerful as the first two parts, and in some ways more interesting." - Village Voice

"An exultant depiction of people becoming politicized and taking charge of their own destinies, responding ingeniously to further acts of oppression and attempting to reorganize every aspect of their lives along communal lines." - Los Angeles Times

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