Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Salvador Allende: A Film by Patricio Guzmán

Icarus Films, NY

A leftist revolutionary or a reformist democrat? A committed Marxist or a constitutionalist politician? An ethical and moral man or, as Richard Nixon called him, a "son of a bitch"? In SALVADOR ALLENDE, acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán (The Battle of Chile and Chile, Obstinate Memory) returns to his native country thirty years after the 1973 military coup that overthrew Chile's Popular Unity government to examine the life of its leader, Salvador Allende, both as a politician and a man.

Using rare archival footage, family photos, interviews with Allende's friends, professional colleagues, his daughters and other relatives as well as UP militants, workers, journalists, his personal secretary and Edward Korry, former U.S. Ambassador to Chile, SALVADOR ALLENDE portrays the life, times and political formation of the Valparaiso-born doctor who was active in Socialist Party politics as a senator and who ran unsuccessfully for President three times before finally being elected in 1970.

The film focuses on the tumultuous three years following Allende's election, and the declaration of his socialist program, "la via chilena," which nationalized large-scale industries and began an agrarian reform program. Former U.S. Ambassador Korry provides an insider's account of President Nixon and Henry Kissinger's determination to thwart Allende, but he is unrepentant about the CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the Chilean government. In a lively debate, former UP militants argue over Allende's failure to defend the government, especially his failure to arm and mobilize a people's militia as a counterforce to the army, in the period leading up to the coup.

SALVADOR ALLENDE also reveals little-known, more intimate aspects of the man, with moving personal reminiscences of his sense of humor, his remarkable energy, personal charisma and popular political appeal. Through archival footage and eyewitness and participant accounts, the film re-creates the military assault on the Moneda, Allende's last radio broadcast to the people of Chile, and rare photos and footage documenting the final actions of Allende and his staff on that day, including his suicide.

Guzmán's personalized voice-over commentary provides a compelling narrative thread for this political biography, one which, in his attempt to understand the impact of Allende on his own life and his nation's political history, also serves to illuminate this controversial and inspirational public figure for an international audience.

"A haunting exploration of the Allende paradox... deserves to be widely seen."—Andrew O'Hehir,

"A very poetic and passionate film... a heartfelt tribute to one of Latin America's true heroes."—Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice

"Poetic and powerful."—Screen International

"Captivating! A beautiful testimony."—Le Figaroscope

"A formidable introduction to that period, among the darkest of the last century."—Ciné Live

"Intimate and distanced, the tribute, far from being stiff, is carried on the melancholy breath of History."—Première

"Excellent! Stirring!"—The Chicago Tribune

"Compelling and moving! Black-and-white film of the presidential palace being bombed to pieces goes without sound and is all the more powerful for it... The depth of Chile's and the world's loss is seen in Guzman's close-ups of the old men who were there and who live with their regret."—The Hollywood Reporter

"Rich, strong... assuredly striking and patiently collated in a precise historical work."—Synopsis

"*** ½ (Three and a half stars) "Engrossing... Narrated by the director, Salvador Allende is at times excessively impressionistic, but the film succeeds well both as an account of a political life (often reduced to sound-bites) and as a tribute to an idealistic man whose vision was dashed by the realities of the Cold War. Highly recommended."—Video Librarian

"Perfectly documented, emotional in its testimonies and a return to the site of the events that, yesterday, plunged Chile into chaos, this film sheds light on a man, still respected in silence in his own country, where fear continues to rule."—Studio Magazine

2007 Latin American Studies Association Film Festival
2006 Palm Springs International Film Festival
2005 Miami International Film Festival
2004 Toronto International Film Festival
2004 Cannes Film Festival
2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival
2004 Sheffield Documentary Festival
Best Documentary, 2004 Lima Latin American Film Festival

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