In the running for the most riveting and vital historical document ever put on celluloid, Patricio Guzmán’s 1975–78 guerrilla epic The Battle of Chile, given three marathon screenings at the Maysles, is an unembedded, unfiltered political grenade that explodes anew this election season. Imagine, if you can, a Bizarro-world where a people-power government is successfully elected, wresting control of the starving nation’s major industries and resources from corporations and multinationals. The response is an overt and covert insurrection led by the business-owners, bankers, and CIA-guided military. You know a truly democratic, for-the-people policy is working if you enrage the wealthy (or Glenn Beck), and Chile becomes ground zero for the re-establishment of conservative power in the hemisphere. (In the chaos, Guzmán and his team were free to film, but of course they were also free to be shot; Part 1 of 3 ends, famously, with soldiers gunning down the cameraman filming them, and Guzmán’s main DP, Jorge Muller Silva, was soon nabbed by Pinochet’s death squad.) How could such a recording of injustice, social disaster, worker unity, and power-mad malice not help to change history itself? It didn’t, of course, but Guzmán never stopped filming; his new feature, due next year, still searches for disappeared bones in the desert.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 8, 2010