Probably the most highly effective pictures in “My Imaginary Nation” are of the demonstrations within the streets of Santiago, Chile, that started in October 2019. A whole bunch of 1000’s of Chileans took to the streets, at first to protest a subway fare improve, and ultimately to demand sweeping modifications to the nation’s financial and political order. They had been met with tear gasoline, baton fees and plastic bullets geared toward their eyes. Some fought again with cobblestones chiseled from the road, which they hurled on the police.
To observe scenes like that in a documentary movie — or, for that matter, on social media — is to expertise a powerful sense of déjà vu. What occurred in Santiago in 2019 and 2020 appears like an echo, a reprise, of comparable uprisings within the current previous; in Tehran in 2009 (and once more this week); in Arab capitals like Tunis, Damascus and Cairo in 2011; in Kyiv in 2014; in Paris on the peak of the Yellow Vest motion in 2018; throughout america in 2020. These episodes aren’t an identical, however every represents the eruption of long-simmering dissatisfaction with a established order that appears stubbornly detached to the grievances of the individuals.
Accompanying the exhilaration that these footage may convey is a way of foreboding. In nearly each case, these rebellions led to defeat, disappointment, stalemate or worse. The buoyant democratic promise of Tahrir Sq. in Cairo has been smothered by a decade of navy dictatorship. Ukrainian democracy, seemingly victorious after the Maidan “revolution of dignity,” has since confronted inner and exterior threats, most lately from Vladimir Putin’s military.
Jehane Noujaim’s “The Sq.” and Evgeny Afineevsky’s “Winter on Hearth” are glorious in-the-moment movies about Tahrir and Maidan, and “My Imaginary Nation” belongs of their firm. Nevertheless it additionally has a resonance particular to Chile, and to the profession of its director, Patricio Guzmán, who brings a novel and highly effective historic perspective to his nation’s current circumstances. He has seen occasions like this earlier than, and has motive to hope that this time is perhaps completely different.
Guzman, now in his early 80s, can pretty be described as Chile’s biographer, and likewise its cinematic conscience. His first documentary, footage from which seems on this one, was concerning the early months of Salvador Allende’s presidency, which started in an environment of optimism and defiance in 1970 and led to a brutal U.S.-supported navy coup three years later. Guzman’s account of Allende’s fall and the repression that adopted is the three-part “Battle of Chile,” which he accomplished whereas exiled in France, and which stands as one of many nice political movies of the previous half-century.
Extra lately, in one other trilogy— “Nostalgia For the Gentle,” “The Pearl Button” and “Cordillera of Goals” — Guzman has explored Chile’s distinct cultural and geographical id, musing on the intersections of ecology, demography and politics in a mode that’s lyrical and essayistic. In “My Imaginary Nation” he cites the French filmmaker Chris Marker as a mentor, and so they share a spirit of crucial humanism and a behavior of on the lookout for the that means of historical past within the positive grain of expertise.
Whereas this can be a first-person documentary, with the director offering voice-over narration, it expresses a poignant humility and a affected person willingness to hear. Guzman interweaves footage of the demonstrations into interviews with contributors, most of them younger and all of them ladies.
This revolution, which culminated within the election of Gabriel Boric, a leftist in his 30s, to Chile’s presidency and a referendum calling for a brand new structure, arose out of the financial frustrations of scholars and dealing individuals. However Guzman and the activists, students and journalists he talks to clarify that feminism was all the time central to the motion. They argue that the plight of poor and Indigenous Chileans can’t be understood or addressed with out taking gender under consideration, and that the equality of ladies is foundational to any egalitarian politics.
“My Imaginary Nation” ends with a brand new constituent meeting — together with many veterans of the demonstrations — assembly to write down a brand new structure that they hope will lastly dispel the legacy of Augusto Pinochet’s lengthy dictatorship. After the movie was accomplished, voters rejected their first draft, a setback to Boric and to the novel power Guzman’s movie captures and celebrates. Regardless of the subsequent chapter might be, we will hope that he’s round to document it.
My Imaginary Nation
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Operating time: 1 hour 23 minutes. In theaters.