My Imaginary Country15
Nestled snugly on the western side of the tip of South America is where you will find Chile. It’s a country that is home to outstanding wines, the world’s largest swimming pool and of course ex-Arsenal player Alexis Sanchez.
It’s also a country with a rich and colourful history, which has undergone a number of political changes, including recently, as Patricio Guzmán’s film examines.
The Chilean born documentary maker, who lived through the turbulent reign of the dictator General Pinochet from the early seventies onwards, has seen change in the air once again in his homeland, and has returned once more, camera in hand.
His film is about a country’s people need for change. It’s one that sees them take to the streets of their capital, in large numbers, to make their voices heard.
Guzmán interviews a number of those involved, albeit on one side of it, as they tell him why they feel that change is necessary. Of course the current political regime doesn’t help, showing little regard for the needs of the common people. But it’s clear they’re not prepared to take it anymore, as they show strength in their numbers.
At times it’s a powerful film, showing swells of people on the streets, standing up to aggressive forces with their guns and water cannons.
It captures the mood of a people perfectly, almost one voice standing up for their rights.
It’s curious for two reasons however. Firstly, all of Guzmán’s contributors are women; with the voice of many women often suppressed, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you are documenting a fight for change, it does feel a tad unbalanced as far as opinions are concerned.
Secondly, it all takes place in the country’s capital of Santiago; as a country with over 18 million in population, although it can act as a litmus test, it would have been interesting to take on opinions outside of the capital too, after all it’s often the case that urban opinions can often vary greatly from those that live in the countryside. This makes the film feel slightly uneven and myopic, despite being as well meaning as it tries to be.
It’s a documentary that certainly leaves you with a taste of what’s taken place in Chile, but it would have been interesting, and possibly more reflective, to hear from other than those in its capital for a richer flavour of opinion – it may well be the same, but we’ll never know.