To mark 50 years since the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, and to coincide with the release of his latest film, My Imaginary Country, we're showing all three parts of Patricio Guzmán's seminal The Battle of Chile - an epic chronicle of the tumultuous events that culminated in the coup of socialist Salvador Allende by Pinochet's army.
In this blog, we delve into more detail on Guzmán’s seminal The Battle of Chile Trilogy (showing Sat 17 Jun), and look at how 50 years later, My Imaginary Country (from Fri 9 Jun) chronicles a country on the cusp of change once again, after decades of pain, inequality and repression.
The Battle of Chile (1975 – 1979)
Split into three parts, The Battle of Chile is made up of footage filmed by Guzmán and a small crew in the nine months leading up to and during the bloody coup that led to Salvador Allende’s death – Latin America’s first democratically-elected Marxist president – and the establishment of General Augusto Pinochet’s decades-long dictatorship.
Not only the best films about Allende and the coup d’état, but among the best documentary films ever made, changing our concepts of political documentary within a framework accessible to the widest audience.
Time Out Film
While the first two films cover the escalation of rightist opposition to Allende’s left-wing government, as well as documenting the actual events of the coup, the final film of the trilogy captures the optimism, activism and people power of the industrial working class before Pinochet’s rise to power.
After the coup, the military arrested four of the filmmakers. They subsequently went into exile, smuggled the film out of Chile, and finished it in Cuba. The film trilogy was not shown in Chile until 1997.
Heralded as one of the greatest political documentaries of all time, The Battle of Chile is a vivid, urgent document of the rise and fall of Allende’s presidency.
For more events commemorating 50 years since the 1973 coup, check out Chile 50 Years UK
My Imaginary Country (2022)
Much like The Battle of Chile, My Imaginary Country documents a Chile that is once again on the cusp of change. Focussing in on the pivotal role played by women, Guzmán captures the estallido social (social uprisings) of 2019 and 2020, tracing the people’s path through mass protest to constitutional change.
Stylistically, My Imaginary Country is a departure from Guzmán’s more recently completed trilogy (Nostalgia for the Light, The Pearl Button and The Cordillera of Dreams). Where these poetic, meditative films were haunted by Chile’s violent past, steeped in a sense of longing for a country Guzmán once knew, My Imaginary Country finds its feet planted firmly in the present.
In the youthful energy of protestors, street medics, and activist artists, Guzmán finds echoes of what once inspired him in the days of Allende.
Though filmed almost 50 years apart, the vivacity and urgency of both The Battle of Chile and My Imaginary Country pervades in the on-the-ground footage of protests and impassioned personal interviews.
Watching My Imaginary Country, we get the impression that Guzmán has seen his homeland come full circle since the days of Allende’s socialist government. The film ushers in a new sense of hope after the decades of pain and repression the Chilean people experienced under Pinochet’s dictatorship.
While the trauma of their recent history still lingers, Guzmán feels that “a new era is beginning” for the Chilean people and that Chile is finally moving towards the country he always imagined it could be.
Watch My Imaginary Country from Friday 9 June.
All three parts of The Battle of Chile will show on Saturday 17 June.