The revival in 1998 of the second part of THE BATTLE OF CHILE in the US marked the 25th anniversary of the bloody right-wing coup that ended Salvador Allende's democratically elected Marxist government. Patricio Guzman's chilling 1978 documentary merits its landmark status.
The first part of THE BATTLE OF CHILE records the events that led up to the coup. PART 2: THE COUP D'ETAT begins with the earliest coup attempt itself, an attack on Allende's palace and the shooting in the streets by rightist soldiers in June 1973. But Allende's forces and a worker's march
temporarily halt the onslaught. Allende then issues an order for martial law, but the Chilean congress denies his request. Meanwhile, right-wing officers search and interrogate workers in factories who have been sympathetic to Allende.
Back in the government, the left-wing parties (the Christian Democrats and the Socialists) differ on a solution: peaceful protest vs. armed conflict. As talks stall, the fascist right kills an Allende commander, allowing a takeover of the navy, and the antigovernment forces (led by General
Pinochet) also begin killing the factory workers. A transportation strike is supported by both the Chilean fascists and the US government, which views the left as a Communist threat, however democratically elected. Allende appoints a joint civilian-military cabinet to end the strike, but his
attempt fails, so the people discover their own means of transportation.
Finally, on September 11, 1973, with the support of the US, the Chilean Air Force bombs the presidential palace. Allende, however, makes his last address via radio to the people, stating he would rather die than resign. Soon enough, he is killed and General Pinochet takes over, with tanks in the
streets to keep order.
Cinema verite fully flowered with THE BATTLE OF CHILE, an amazing chronicle of history. From the very first scene in THE COUP D'ETAT, where an Argentine cameraman records his own death (as the rightist forces shoot at him), the film plunges the viewer deeply and irreversibly into the grim, tragic
action. Patricio Guzman pieced together his documentary from the surreptitious filming by several cinematographers stationed around Chile during the tumultuous period (Guzman's main cinematographer, Jorge Muller-Silva, "disappeared," along with thousands of civilians, at the time of the coup). It
is just as miraculous that Guzman was able to complete the film (given the conditions) as it was that he was able to get the footage out of the country (a long, fascinating story worthy of a documentary itself). To date, post-Pinochet Chile still refuses a release of the film.
Despite the dark swirl of violence and the many characters involved in the different factions, the black-and-white BATTLE OF CHILE clearly and concisely tells its story with a matter-of-fact tone (set by the English-speaking female narrator) that undercuts the argument that the film is
propagandistic (it may be sympathetic to the left, but it also seems much more honest and accurate than any of the opposition material, including the slanted contemporary US newscasts seen in the film). From the workers' marches to the factory protests to the government debates to the final,
savage bombing attack, THE BATTLE OF CHILE records history as it happens and brings a new awareness to the kind of events too often rewritten or forgotten by establishment chroniclers. (Graphic violence, adult situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1976
- Rating: NR
- Review: The revival in 1998 of the second part of THE BATTLE OF CHILE in the US marked the 25th anniversary of the bloody right-wing coup that ended Salvador Allende's democratically elected Marxist government. Patricio Guzman's chilling 1978 documentary merits it… (more)