Thursday, September 10, 2020

DVDebut for Nanni Moretti's fine new documentary, SANTIAGO, ITALIA

Really? Something good came out of the horrific Pinochet dictatorship that ravaged the country of Chile during the 1970s and 80s? God knows, all this has been covered and re-covered in countless documentaries and narratives in the decades since then. Yet the new and ever-so-welcome SANTIAGO, ITALIA by the popular Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti offers something surprisingly positive, along with information and a situation that TrustMovies knew nothing of until viewing this gripping and moving new documentary. 

Not that Signore Moretti (shown at left) leaves out the bad stuff. No: His interviews with Chilean citizens who were imprisoned and tortured by the military at the time still horrify and disgust, as do those with former members of the military forever trying to justify and/or sleaze out of their actions back in the day. 

But the heart of this fairly brief documentary details how the Italian Embassy in Chile at the time of the coup and after managed to help rescue, then house and eventually ship safely off to Italy several hundred Chilean dissidents. As we hear from these Chilean-Italians, their stories of the time of Salvador Allende and his and Democracy's death in Chile become a kind of mosaic, of things we knew and plenty we didn't, about how various embassies (there were other good guys, in addition to Italy) helped those being persecuted by the new dictatorship.

Filled with archival footage (above and below) that shows us Allende (above, center) and the time period, and then fills in the history via interviews with Chileans in numerous walks of life -- factory workers to musicians, journalists, artists and filmmakers (Patricio Guzmán is one of these) -- the documentary works its way up to the good news about how many of these people were saved.

Early on, one woman recalls how Chile under Allende "was a whole country, a whole society in a state of love." Except it wasn't, of course. Allende was faced with two choices, one interviewee explains: Strike while the iron is hot and nationalize industry or try to placate the bourgeoisie. He chose the former, more progressive model (unlike America's centrist Democratic Party that keep us moving toward the wealthy, powerful and corporate). Although democratically elected, Allende and his socialist policies were hated by many right-wing bourgeois and upper-class Chileans, so with the help of America, the military coup took place. 

All of this has been told and seen many times over. What Moretti brings new to the table is the tale of that Italian Embassy (above) and its good work. His movie is so full of solid, smart information that attention must be paid throughout. The payoff is worth it, for his interviews are often exciting, funny and very moving. My favorite is the story of a grandmother who must toss her baby grandchild over the wall of the embassy and what subsequently occurred. 

What happened to the "saved" Chileans, how they got to Italy, found employment (and much else, too) and, though hoping to return eventually to their homeland, finally settled in Italy is simply a marvelous, engaging story. But, as encouraging and hopeful as the documentary often is (as are most of Moretti's movies), this one ends on a realistic, near-negative note. We can only hope that Chile, Italy, and -- hello -- the USA, too, will take a different course before the opportunity for change runs out.

From Icarus Home Video and Distrib Films US, Santiago, Italia, in Spanish and Italian with English subtitles and running 84 minutes, hit the street this past week and is available now on DVD (and eventually via streaming). It's a must-see for history buffs, lovers of Italy and/or Chile, and progressives of all countries.

No comments: