In the 1950s and 1960s the film journals Cine Foro and Ercilla began to appear, and a new generation of filmmakers emerged, spurred by the founding of the Grupo de Cine Experimental at the University of Chile by Sergio Bravo and Pedro Chaskel (1957) and the Cine Club of Viña del Mar (1962). By the time the Dutch-born Joris Ivens (né George Henri Anton Ivens, 1898–1989)—who excelled at both poetic and political forms of documentary—arrived in Chile in 1962 he had documented political struggles in Europe ( Borinage , 1934, about Belgian coal miners) and The Spanish Earth , 1936, co-produced with Ernest Hemingway on the Spanish Civil War); the United States ( Power and the Land , 1941); Asia ( Before Spring , 1958); and Cuba ( Carnet de Viaje/Travel Notebook , 1961). After releasing short and medium-length works informed by documentary, Italian neorealism, and the French New Wave, the new filmmakers turned to feature-length production during the reformist Frei government (1964–1970), shaping the profile of Chilean cinema for years to come. Helvio Soto (1930–2001) made his most notable film, Caliche sangriento ( Bloody Nitrate , 1969), on the Chilean-Peruvian war, prior to directing for national television during Salvador Allende's Popular Unity government (1970–1973). Miguel Littin (b. 1942), who collaborated with Soto and Ivens, became distinguished for his neo-realist El Chacal del Nahueltoro ( The Jackal of Nahueltoro , 1969) and La Tierra prometida ( The Promised Land , 1971), which reconstructs a brief socialist experiment in the north of Chile in 1932. Raúl Ruiz (b. 1941) applied Mondaca, Kika, Manolo Gonza his experiences with avant-garde theater to film. After studying filmmaking in Spain, Patricio Guzmán (b. 1941) returned to Chile armed with screenplays, only to commit to documentary in response to the historical moment. He formed the Grupo Tercer Cine, which chronicled the events surrounding the victory and then the demise of Popular Unity, culminating in a three-part project, Batalla de Chile ( The Battle of Chile ). This groundbreaking project, released internationally in 1979, reflects the degree to which contemporary events and a conscious effort to reject commercial genre filmmaking led to a free-form shooting style and a collectivization of the production process, as expressed in the 1970 Manifesto of Popular Unity Filmmakers.

During this period there was a move toward nationalizing the film and television industries. Chile Films was reopened under realist director Patricio Kaulen (1921–1999) in 1965, launching a newsreel, Chile en Marcha . Under Miguel Littin, from 1971 to 1973, Chile Films became the means through which groups on the political left attempted to implement the democratization of film production and performance, although political differences and inefficiency led to the government's temporary withdrawal of material support for the studio in 1972.

The 1973 military coup d'état, led by General Augusto Pinochet and backed by the US government, had devastating effects on Chilean film practice, leading to a veritable cultural blackout in all areas of creative art. Chile Films was sacked by the military forces, and all films considered subversive were burned. Patricio Guzmán and his team continued to film the events of the coup as they unfolded on national television. The footage for The Battle of Chile was divided up among the crew members and smuggled out, reel by reel, as they left the country. Censorship, house searches, and imprisonment of film artists and workers considered to be subversive were rampant. As a response to the hostile creative environment and to political marginalization, many directors chose exile in Western and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Mexico and Venezuela, and Canada and the United States. Ruiz and Soto went to France, Guzmán and Chaskel fled to Spain, and Littín found refuge in Mexico and then Nicaragua, where he directed Nicaragua's first feature-length film, Alsino y el condor ( Alsino and the Condor , 1982). Thus, national artistic production followed the divergent paths of two groups: those who remained and those who left.

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