The Pinochet Case

October, 2002, Documentary

This is a searing examination of the last phase of the Chilean dictator's political power, when he named himself "senator for life" and then made the mistake of visiting England where a Spanish court attempted to bring him to trial for his crimes against his countrymen. That protracted legal process and it's subsequent denouement in Chile itself, eerily parallels the fate of Richard Nixon; no legal conviction, but a damning one in the court of public opinion. Documentarian Patricio Guzman, whose earlier work brilliantly recorded Pinochet's murderous rise to power, deftly captures here the attempts of a vain old man to hold onto his dignity and reputation in the face of mounting evidence about his regime's barbarous sadism. 

Guzman accomplishes this by simply interviewing survivors of Pinochet's atrocities; they tell their stories with such brave dignity it mocks the pompous dictator's attempts to hide from public scrutiny when facing the threat of extradition. But the level of support for Pinochet, (also conveyed by interviews and newsreel footage) suggests that the Chilean people got it right in the end; the film closes with the erection of a massive statue of Allende that’s erected directly across from the steps of the presidential palace, the spot where Pinochet captured and murdered his popularly elected predecessor. There's no doubt about which one of these leaders will be revered by his countrymen in the years to come. 


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