It happens that films convey something that has become rare: optimism that collective efforts can change things for the better. The hope for a better future. The documentary “Mi país imaginario” does that. It accompanies the massive protest movement in Chilewhich began in October 2019 and quickly became the largest popular uprising in the country’s history.
It started by raising the price of metro tickets by 30 pesos. The protests soon spread, millions of people took to the streets. It’s about more rights for women and indigenous people, about housing, about social justice in a society that is still shaped by dictatorship and policies for the rich. People want to live. President Sebastián Piñera declares a state of emergency and calls in the military for help, bloody clashes on the streets follow. But the fight is not in vain: In the end, the planned reform of the constitution, which dates back to the days of the military dictatorship, and the election of the left candidate, Gabriel Boric, as the new head of state.
They describe the oppressive state as a rapist: “El violador eres tú.”
dee Movie but begins even further in the past, in a Chile that was already full of hope in 1970, at the time of Socialist President Salvador Allende. The black-and-white photographs were taken by the young Patricio Guzmán, the film’s director, who documented the first months of Allende’s reign. But soon General Augusto Pinochet, with the help of the military, took power. He has his political opponents persecuted, tortured and disappeared. In 1973, Guzmán was locked in a camp for several weeks before he managed to leave the country.
In his most recent films, the exiled Chilean has repeatedly dealt with the Pinochet era. He approaches the traumatic past through landscapes and the elements of nature. In “Homesickness for the Stars” he searches the Atacama Desert for the remains of the victims of the dictatorship, in “The Mother-of-Pearl Button” he explores the Pacific Ocean as a place of remembrance, in “The Cordillera of Dreams” the Andes Mountains. At the beginning of the new film “Mi país imaginario” Guzmán also films stones lying around on the streets of Santiago de Chile, which remind him of the mountains – but here they are transformed into instruments of the revolution. Demonstrators have torn them out of the pavement and are throwing them in the direction of the heavily armed police.
The images in this film also work like stones, but more like ones with which to build a new, imaginary country, together with the activists Guzmán is filming and the crowds in the streets. But that future is not yet clear. She has yet to develop.
At the beginning of the film, Guzmán describes how, in 1970, the legendary French essay filmmaker Chris Marker saw his earlier Allende films and told him: “If you want to film a fire, you have to be there beforehand where the first flame is going to ignite.” Marker was obsessed with reading the signs of the past and future from images of the present. However, Guzmán was not there when Chile started to burn in autumn 2019, he arrived late.
Guzmán therefore does not show the signs of the future contained in this revolution. They belong to the portrayed protagonists: the artist, the photographer, the paramedic, the lawyer who is also a chess player, the warehouse worker. Whatever it is, the future is female and feminist. Guzmán exclusively interviews women, since it is women who drove this anti-patriarchal revolt, gave it a voice. For example, with the viral chant by the theater collective Las Tesis, in which the oppressive state is identified as a raping man: “El violador eres tú.”
Thousands of women sing it, raising their arms synchronously as a symbol against state power. When you see that, you have only one wish: to take to the streets and reduce the patriarchy to rubble. The canvas is on fire.
Mi país imaginario, Chile / France 2022. – Director and script: Patricio Guzmán. Camera: Samuel Lahu. Montage: Laurence Manheimer. Real Fiction, 83 min. Theatrical release: April 13, 2023.