David Gray


During the 1980s in Chile, activist protest against the Pinochet dictatorship grew in force and number, with street protests and encounters with police becoming regular events. This protest movement also included increased political documentary activity as a number of collectives and activist groups began producing documentary videos and screening them clandestinely as well as distributing them through informal networks. In this paper, I look at three different exhibition sites for 1980s activist documentary in Chile, one in the later years of the dictatorship, and two in the postdictatorship. The three scenes, all educational in nature, are: 1.) The screening of a political documentary in a población (shantytown) outside Santiago, as part of a children’s cinema workshop, as captured in Ignacio Agüero’s film Cien niños esperando un tren (1988); 2.) The present-day exhibition of various clips from 1980’s video documentaries at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in downtown Santiago; and 3.) The inclusion of Por la vida (Pedro Chaskel and Pablo Salas, 1987) as one of a series of documentaries for which lesson plans were created by the Chilean National Human Rights Institute in 2013, as part of an initiative to guide educators in their use of documentaries to teach the history of the Pinochet dictatorship and facilitate classroom conversations about it. In tracing activist ‘80s documentary through these three contexts, I argue that some (but not all) exhibition in the context of education risks consigning the events of the 1980s captured in the documentaries too cleanly to a past that is viewed as isolated from the present. I also make a comparison between the idealization of the exhibition space as a site of mobilization during the New Latin American Cinema of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and the way the representations of the combative spaces of 1980s Chile play out in the contemporary neoliberal spaces of Chile.


chilean cinema, gael garcia bernal, chilean documentary, dictatorship, pinochet, u-matic, Chile’s Forbidden Dreams

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