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  •  REVIEW: THE PINOCHET CASE



    Protesters keep a vigil outside the estate where Pinochet was confined in England, showing red-painted palms, a symbol of silent protest from the post-coup era in Chile. in The Pinochet Case
    Protesters keep a vigil outside the estate where Pinochet was confined in England, showing red-painted palms, a symbol of silent protest from the post-coup era in Chile.

    Chile con carnage

    "The Pinochet Case" is the latest of Patricio Guzman's devastating documentaries about dictatorship in Chile, this one covering the attempts to bring General Augusto Pinochet to justice and expose his murderous legacy.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    (Originally reviewed in September 2002 at the Film Forum.)

    "The Pinochet Case" is no comedy, by a longshot, but it does include one hysterically funny line. The former Chilean dictator and "Senator for Life" Augusto Pinochet, under house arrest in England, gets a visit from Margaret Thatcher, who praises his longtime friendship with the U.K. "I am also very much aware that it's you who brought democracy to Chile," the former PM says with no visible sign of irony.

      
    THE PINOCHET CASE
    Original title: El Caso Pinochet.
    Written and directed by: Patricio Guzman.
    Featuring: Augusto Pinochet, Peter Schaad, Alun Jones, Norman Lamont, Joan Garces, Clive Nicholls, Baltasar Garzon, Carlos Castresana, Juan Guzman, Margaret Thatcher..
    In English and Spanish with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | Further information on the Pinochet case | Related site: National Security Archive
     SCHEDULE
    Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave. (at Second Street) Tuesday, July 22, 2003, 7 p.m.

    Pinochet, as will be clear from the film even if you aren't familiar with his reign of terror, is nobody's democrat. He presided over shocking waves of political kidnappings, tortures, rapes and thousands of murders after seizing power in a U.S.-backed coup in 1973. This emotionally wrenching film is an account of his 1998 arrest in England and the attempt to bring him to justice.

    The film's greatest impact comes when surviving torture victims — some of them for the first time ever — talk about what happened to them at the hands of Pinochet's military. Men electrocuted, women raped, one woman forced to watch a man beaten nearly to death and then drag him away to nurse him while he died. We see some of the torture chambers themselves, giving horrifying life to the stories the victims have told. We see bones dug up and skull fragments matched to the bodies they belong to. And we also see the shelves packed with files on the thousands of people disappeared and murdered, giving a sense of the sheer number of now-mute victims.

    Augusto Pinochet is received warmly by the Chilean military upon his return from arrest in Europe. in The Pinochet Case  
    Augusto Pinochet is received warmly by the Chilean military upon his return from arrest in Europe.
      
    The film profiles the lawyers and judges in three countries who pursued Pinochet through a patient accumulation of documents and testimony, and they seem truly heroic for taking on what seemed like a quixotic case. They seem all the more heroic in contrast to Pinochet's defenders. One British friend, a defense contractor who accompanied the general on his annual shopping jaunts to London and accompanied him to visit the British leadership, dismisses his murderous past as simply a kind of Cold War vogue.

    "That was the name of the game — you fought communism," he explains. "I say he did that with minimal loss of life."

    As this kind of talk suggests, there's an international elite willing to defend the most obscene barbarism when it's carried out by a member of their club. And this is one of the predominant themes you can draw from this movie — that the enemy in the human-rights struggle is not just a tinpot dictator in some faraway Third World hellhole, it's a ruling elite that crosses national borders and resides as easily on Downing Street or Pennsylvania Avenue as in Santiago's Moneda Palace. The powerless wait a long time for justice, and sometimes their only justice is to finally tell their story.

      
      One woman of about 60 vows to go on telling the young people of Chile the truth the rest of her life. "My revenge," she says, "is staying alive."
      
    "The Pinochet Case" almost demands to be seen alongside director Patricio Guzman's previous documentaries "The Battle of Chile" and "Chile, Obstinate Memory," which showed together at the Film Forum a few years ago. The first shows the attack on the country's democratically elected government in vivid detail. The second includes interviews with young people in Chile in which what's most striking is their idolization of the military regime and complete ignorance (or incapacity to speak) of its bloody nature.

    "The Pinochet Case" — like the legal proceedings it covers — answers that by giving voice to the victims themselves. Some are mothers whose own daughters are hearing their stories for the first time. Other women wear their murdered sons' and husbands' pictures around their necks as a warning that they will not go away. One woman of about 60 vows to go on telling the young people of Chile the truth the rest of her life. "My revenge," she says, "is staying alive."

    SEPTEMBER 11, 2002
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on The Pinochet Case:

  • Bastards of Neo-Colonialism...   from U.K., Sep 23, 2003
  • Re: Bastards of Neo-Colonialism...   from Miami, Apr 13, 2004
  • Re: Bastards of Neo-Colonialism...   from M, Dec 20, 2004
  • Re: Bastards of Neo-Colonialism...   from Pol Pot, Mar 27, 2005
  • His a blood stain history will never remove   from Walaa Quisay, Apr 24, 2008

  • Post a comment on "The Pinochet Case"