Battle of Chile Shows Strength in Realism

The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie, Part One of the four-year, three-part series The Battle of Chile, was shown in Cole Cinema on September 27. The film accurately and passionately set the stage for one of the most realistic tellings of the strongly questioned election of Chilean President Salvador Allende, dictatorial military usurpation of General Augusto Pinochet, and the associated sociopolitical upheaval in Chile during the early-to-mid 1970s.

Insurrection, released in 1975, sets the tone of the storytelling with interviews with the Chilean population using a black-and-white camera and hand recording rather than with use of a tripod, creating a more imperfect but realistic feel to the topic. The style added a creative element to the documentary while also emphasizing that the point was not to be a pretty or flowered film, but instead something that would tell a clear, true-to-the-details story.

Recording the people in their homes and on the streets of cities in Chile also emphasizes the poor living conditions of the time. The election is taking place two years after Allende entered power, a time marked by economic deprivation and industrial conflict.

As the film continues, the cameramen aim their focus at the political end, observing Allende’s change from a weak popular vote two years previously to gaining an almost 50% voting approval. Switching between Chilean government meetings and street mob confrontations and parades, the documentary effectively covers both sides of the spectrum at the level of the citizens and the level of the government officials.

The documentary generated discussion soon after among the student audience members and three College professors attending: International Languages and Cultures Professor Joanna Bartow, Theater, Film, and Media Studies Assistant Professor David Ellsworth, and History Professor Uri Rosenheck.

“The imperfect camera…was not intended for audience enjoyment,” said Ellsworth, “but to make you think. It was pretty shaky in some areas.”

“This [version] only represents one narrative,” said Bartow. “The narrative may have been done before, years after the documentary was released.”

“What I like about this movie is that the rich are not depicted as this guerrilla organization, but a party backed by civilians,” said Rosenheck.

The film concluded with the image of Argentine cameraman Leonardo Henrichsen being shot by a Chilean soldier, and continued in 1976 with The Coup d’etat and 1979 with Popular Power. All three documentaries were directed by Chilean director Patricio Guzman. The documentary won the Grenoble International Film Festival in the mid 1970s.

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