La Batalla De Chile: La Lucha De Un Pueblo Sin Armas - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(The Battle of Chile: Struggle of People Without Arms)

Chile-Cuba, 1975, 1976, 1979

Director: Patricio Guzmán

Part 1. La insurrección de la burguesia (The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie)

Part 2. El golpe de estado (A Blow Against the State)

Part 3. El poder popular (The Power of the People)

Production: Equipo "Tercer Año," in collaboration with Chris Marker and the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC); Kodak black and white; 16mm (subsequently blown up to 35mm). Part 1 released 1975, Cannes Film Festival; Part 2 released 1976, Cannes Film Festival; Part 3 released 1979. Filmed 1973 in Santiago, Chile.

Producer: Federico Elton; screenplay: Patricio Guzmán; photography: Jorge Müller Silva; editor: Pedro Chaskel; sound: Bernardo Menz; mixing: Carlos Fernández; sound transfer: Jacinto Falcón and Ramón Torrado; special effects: Jorge Pucheux, Delia Quesada, and Alberto Valdés; consultants: Julio García Espinosa, Marta Harnecker, and José Pino; other collaborators: Saul Yellin, Beatriz Allende, Harald Edelstam, Lilian Indseth, Juan José Mendy, Roberto Matta, Chris Marker, Rodrigo Rojas, Estudio Haynowsky, and Scheumann.

Cast: Readers—Matías Rodriguez, Pedro Fernández Vila, Jacques Bonaldi, and Bruno Colombo.



Pick, Zuzana, "The Battle of Chile: A Schematic Shooting Script," in Ciné-Tracts (Montreal), Winter 1980.


Racinante, editor, La insurrección de la burgesia , Caracas, 1975.

La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas , Madrid, 1977.

Guzmán, Patricio, and P. Sempere, Chile: El cine contra el fascismo , edited by Fernando Torres, Valencia, 1977.


Salinas, S., and H. Soto, "Más vale una sólida formación política que la destreza artesanal," in Primer Plano (Valparaiso), vol. 2, no. 5, 1973.

Gauthier, Guy, "Chili: La Première Année," in Image et Son (Paris), March 1973.

"Stadion Chile," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), February 1974.

Ehrman, H., and others "Chile: Le Cinéma de l'unité populaire," in Ecran (Paris), February 1974.

"Le Cinéma dans la politique de l'Unité Populaire," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), November 1974.

Delmas, Ginette, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1975.

Cardenac, M., in Ecran (Paris), December 1975.

Gauthier, Guy, in Image et Son (Paris), January 1976.

Biskind, Peter, "In Latin America They Shoot Filmmakers," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1976.

Niogret, Hubert, in Positif (Paris), July-August 1976.

Martin, Marcel, in Ecran (Paris), January 1977.

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Thirard, P. L., "De l'histoire déja ( La Bataille du Chile )," in Positif (Paris), February 1977.

Hönig, J., "Patricio Guzmán—ein Filmschöpfer der Unidad Popular," in Information (Berlin), no. 1, 1977.

Image et Son (Paris), April 1977.

Burton, Julianne, "Politics and the Documentary in People's Chile," in Socialist Review , October 1977.

Chaskel, Pedro, "América Latina: Vigencia del documental politico Chile: Analista de una batalla," in Cine al Dia (Caracas), November 1977.

Galiano, Carlos, in Cine Cubano (Havana), no. 91–92, 1978.

Gupta, Udayan, and FLQ Staff, "An Interview with Patricio Guzmán, Director of The Battle of Chile ," in Film Library Quarterly (New York), no. 4, 1978.

West, Dennis, "Documenting the End of the Chilean Road to Socialism: La batalla de Chile, " in American Hispanist , February 1978.

"Special Section" of Cine Cubano (Havana), March 1978.

Anderson, P., in Films in Review (New York), June-July 1978.

Ranvaud, Don, "Introduction to Latin America I: Chile," in Framework (Norwich), Spring 1979.

Schumann, Peter, "Chilean Cinema in Exile," in Framework (Norwich), Spring 1979.

Guzmán, Patricio, "Chile 3: Guzmán," in Framework (Norwich), Spring 1979.

Angry Arts group, " Battle of Chile in Context," in Jump Cut (Chicago), November 1979.

Wallis, V., " Battle of Chile: Struggle of People Without Arms," in Jump Cut (Chicago), November 1979.

Guzmán, Patricio, " The Battle of Chile: The Origins of the Project," in Ciné-Tracts (Montreal), Winter 1980.

Pick, Zuzana, "Chile: The Cinema of Resistance, 1973–1979," in Ciné-Tracts (Montreal), Winter 1980.

Pick, Zuzana, "Letter from Guzmán to Chris Marker" and "Reflections Previous to the Filming of The Battle of Chile ," in CinéTracts (Montreal), Winter 1980.

MacCarthy, T., in Variety (New York), 7 May 1980.

Galiano, C., "Wirklichkeit und Dokument," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), November 1980.

West, Dennis, in Cineaste (New York), no. 2, 1981.

* * *

The Battle of Chile , which consists of three feature-length parts, uses actuality footage to record the socio-economic and political turmoil preceding the fall of Chile's Marxist-socialist president, Salvador Allende, in 1973. While the film is an outstanding example of the documentary as a record of history-in-the-making, it is also a carefully conceived and clearly organized analysis of these events. Guzmán structured the first two parts of his film around selected "battlegrounds" (e.g., a strike of copper miners) where class interests clashed. The major issues and strategies in these clashes are generally presented in a dialectical fashion: for instance, the film may first show the tactics of the rightist forces and then the counter-measures with which the left responds. The filmmakers infiltrated the entire political spectrum and succeeded in showing events from multiple political perspectives as they unfolded. Part three of the film is structured differently in that it focuses on a single phenomenon—a people's power movement which first arose as a response to a bosses' strike.

This monumental documentary is Guzmán's most important film. It was made by a politically committed five-person team who faced overwhelming obstacles. Available to this film collective were one Nagra tape recorder, one 16mm Eclair camera, and film stock which had been sent from abroad by a colleague. In spite of the strict semi-clandestine measures they followed, the filmmakers at times risked their lives. After the right-wing military coup toppled Allende, all the sound tape and film footage were smuggled out of Chile. The film was edited at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry in Havana.

The extensive use of the sequence-shot, The Battle of Chile 's predominant stylistic feature, is unusual in documentary films. Pedro Chaskel's low-key editing preserves the unity of these sequence-shots and maximizes their effect.

The Battle of Chile is one of the greatest Marxist documentaries. The influence of Marx's The Civil War in France and Lenin's State and Revolution is evident in the type of political analysis applied in the first two parts of the film. These two segments illustrate the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary lesson that there can be no peaceful transition to socialism before the repressive machinery of the bourgeois state (e.g., a standing army) is broken up and replaced. In accordance with this view, the filmmakers closely follow the military's drift to the right as well as the anti-Allende activities of the opposition-dominated legislature. Marx and Engels in the Manifesto of the Communist Party viewed classes as the protagonists of history, and conflict as an inherent dimension of class societies. Guzmán follows this Marxist conception in that classes are the protagonists of his film and events are framed in terms of class conflict.

This film has reportedly never been seen in Chile. In countries where the documentary has been shown, both Marxist and non-Marxist critics have hailed it as a landmark in the history of the political documentary. Because of its vast scope, The Battle of Chile is surely the single most valuable historical document on the final months of the Via Chilena, Chile's unique experiment in building socialism peacefully and democratically. Marxist critics have praised the film for its attack on the bourgeois ideology of cinema, an ideology which represents the capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois social order as "givens" and discourages viewers from challenging or questioning analytically the socio-economic status quo. In The Battle of Chile , the individual star of bourgeois cinema has been replaced by workers who are depicted as a class struggling to alter the capitalist mode of production and to change the world the bourgeoisie created.

—Dennis West

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