Friday 3 March 2023

The Pinochet Case [2001]

 Like his haunting homecoming essay Chile, Obstinate Memory – which powerfully foregrounded the theme of political memory and amnesia that would profoundly inform his filmography thereon – Patricio Guzmán’s The Pinochet Case too served as a coda to his monumental documentary trilogy The Battle of Chile. This brilliant and harrowing docu dispassionately articulated the belated addressal of Pinochet’s violent overthrow of Allende’s socialist government in 1973 and establishment of military dictatorship, which Guzmán had recorded in his electrifying opus. Pinochet, despite “relinquishing” his presidency in 1990, had retained military powers till his retirement when he appointed himself “senator-for-life”, lived with state-conferred privileges, and holidayed regularly in London, thanks to the preposterous 1978 Amnesty Law through which the army had absolved itself. However, Madrid-based prosecutor Carlos Castresana – a tireless advocate of international justice who’d witnessed the outrageous clemency accorded to Franco in Spain – had tenaciously built a case over 2 years on Pinochet’s crimes against humanity, which judge Baltasar Garzón upheld and the Scotland Yard enforced by putting Pinochet under house arrest in 1998. Using that as hinge, it solemnly covered two interconnected strands – the sensational political discourse that ensued in the UK which stripped him of his diplomatic impunity while also stalling tangible punishments; and poignant first-hand witnesses of tortures, rapes and disappearances that Pinochet’s enforcers had meted out to left-wing dissenters and activists, which Guzmán would expand upon in his masterful ‘Chile Trilogy’. Despite support from odious right-wing apologists and his triumphant return to Chile 1 ½ years later, Pinochet finally found his immunity stripped there too by judge Juan Guzmán. Its indelible parting shot, showing the unveiling of an Allende statue in Santiago, emphasized the ironic circle of life.

Director: Patricio Guzman

Genre: Documentary/Political History

Language: Spanish/English

Country: Chile

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