‘My imaginary country’: Patricio Guzmán, from the battle of Chile to the hope in a new nation | Culture

It’s funny how sometimes films, initially having nothing to do with origins and styles, end up talking to each other in a week of movie premieres. Bill Patrick Guzman, chronicler of his country from the mythical The Battle of Chile (1975), that in a talk with the prestigious French documentary filmmaker Chris Marker, he told him: “When you want to film a fire, you have to be in the place where the first flame will take place”. Marker’s advice to Guzmán opens his new documentary, My imaginary country Theoretical and practical tour of what happened in Chile since the riots and the social outbreak of October 2019, until the triumph of Gabriel Boric in the second round of the country’s presidential elections, in December 2021, against José Antonio Kast, a candidate from the extreme right.

That this critic has had the opportunity to see the films of Guzmán and Romain Gavras (who films that first spark of a revolution in Athena, which also premieres today) on the same day, making up an unusual and unexpected double feature about the flame of revolution in a world that smells of rottenness, is the least of it. What is relevant is how two filmmakers as diverse as they are are capable of knowing what ends up moving the town; which takes him out of his apathy and grief to try to turn the tables. In the case of Athena, the death of a child at the hands of far-right groups. In the case of My imaginary country something as seemingly insubstantial as the 30% rise in bus and metro fares. From there, to a new country and a possible new constitution. History, so often inscrutable and unexpected.

With style and calm rhythm, always solid, sometimes even poetic, Guzman interview to some of the street characters who were key in the social uprisings of 2019, not for commanding the demonstrations in a “leaderless” struggle, but for being injured by the police response. People who lost an eye and sight, but not their vision of injustice or the desire to transform things. Also to relevant personalities, case of the writer Nona Fernández and the journalist Mónica González. Not by chance, all women, “against the neoliberal system and patriarchy”, and in search of a new society protected by a new Magna Carta. Along with his reflections, those of Guzmán himself, as a narrator with evident warmth and favor alongside the revolutionaries, and a series of impressive photographic and audiovisual images of the outbreak, defined by the filmmaker as “a mixture of liberation, adventure and street fighting ”.

Criticism of former President Sebastián Piñera for using the Army against his people, which took Chileans back to the darkest times of Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship, and the error of describing the riots as “a war” also dominate a part relevant to the documentary. What is it that survives in Chilean society and, above all, in institutions, from those days of repression, persecution and death? asks the director. Memory, always memory.

At 81, Guzmán, director not only of the trilogy The Battle of Chile but also documentaries Chile, the stubborn memory (1997), The Pinochet case (2001) Salvador Allende (2004) and a last trilogy formed by Nostalgia for light, The mother-of-pearl button Y the mountain range of dreams, Composed between 2020 and 2019, it continues its work against forgetfulness. And, for once, hope dominates her tone. She calls her to a new country, younger, more feminist, more optimistic.

MY IMAGINARY COUNTRY

Address: Patrick Guzman.

Gender: political documentary. Chile, 2022.

Duration: 83 minutes.

Premiere: September 23.

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