Chile, Obstinate Memory

Director: Patricio Guzman

Institute History

  • 1998 Sundance Film Festival


In his seminal documentary, The Battle of Chile (1973-79), Patricio Guzmán forged an unforgettable account of the brief democratic dream realized under Salvador Allende and its violent overthrow by the military dictator Pinochet. After twenty-three years in exile, the filmmaker returns to Chile to document the memories of the survivors from Allende’s intimate circle. A people can never forgive or forget what they never fully fathom. With this motivation, Guzmán moves to redress the sanitizing of Chilean history and arrest the collective amnesia engulfing its youth.

With an eloquent and haunting clarity, the filmmaker illuminates the generational rift between those permanently ravaged by the past and those blissfully oblivious to its atrocities. In the film’s most moving passages, Guzmán screens The Battle of Chile for the first time (the film had never been seen in Chile) for both Allende’s now elderly comrades and groups of young university students educated under the Pinochet regime. For the older generation, the film provokes a painful revisitation of the lives and spirit quashed by the coup. For his coun-try’s children, it is a devastatingly emotional realization of their manipulation by mistruths.
A society’s crimes are not limited to the iniquities served upon its people but also lie in the distortions rendered to its history. As his uncle’s faltering fingers struggle to find the keys of an oft-played sonata, the filmmaker delivers a heart-wrenching plea for the safeguarding of memory and persistence of truth.

Patricio Guzmán, Director
Patricio Guzmán was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1941. He studied at the Universidad Católica de Chile and the Escuela de Cinematográfica in Spain. He was imprisoned following the coup and later forced into exile. The Battle of Chile (1973–79) was shown in thrity-seven countries, but wasn’t seen in Chile until 1996. His films include Rose of the Winds (1982), In the Name of God (1987), The Southern Cross (1992), and Barriers of Solitude (1996).

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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