Die Kordilliere der Träume / The Cordillera of Dreams

Die Kordilliere der Träume starts like a travelogue with sweeping shots of the Andes (a Cordillera is, roughly speaking, a mountain range). Director Patricio Guzmán explains in a voiceover that when he was growing up in Chile, he had little interest in the vast mountains – he was too busy with politics. Now he’s been living in exile in France for decades and has started to reassess things.

Guzmán, and a collection of artist friends, muse about the way in which the Andes cut Chile off from the rest of the world making it effectively an island. And yet inasmuch as the inhabitants of Santiago ever see the great mountains, it is usually on the side of a matchbox or one of the murals in the underground painted by one of the friends, Guillermo Muñoz.

In a haphazard way, we are taken through a crash course in the last 50 years and more of Chile’s history. We visit a football stadium where in 1962 the young Guzmán watched the Chilean football team which won Third Place in the World Cup. Following General Pinochet’s 1973 coup against the reforming Allende government, the same stadium was used to round up political prisoners.

Pinochet ushered in the “Chicago Boys” – right wing US-American economists who were looking for a testing lab for what is now known as neo-liberalism. The film assumes a relative high knowledge of this history, but even if some of the names got lost in the rush, you get a general idea that this experiment did not benefit working class Chileans.

We see archive footage – old and new – filmed by Pablo Salas, who unlike Guzmán, stayed in Chile after Pinochet took power. Salas’s film shows demonstrations being attacked by water cannon, tear gas and good old fashioned heavy duty police batons. The earlier demonstrations were against repression by the Pinochet government. Now they’re more likely to be about abortion rights or social justice.

We also see the paving stones – similar to the Stolpersteine in Berlin commemorating Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The stones in Santiago have been laid in memory of the people killed in Pinochet’s coup Below each name is the – usually very young – age of the victim.

We hear that Chile no longer experiences massacres and people being disappeared in the middle of the night, but the economic consequences are the same. The Chilean economy is largely dependent on copper mining and poverty abounds, but there is also a remarkably high percentage of millionaires. The other great beneficiaries are the unnamed individuals and corporations who bought the copper mines for a song and now can spend their spare time counting their money.

One thing that I’m not so sure about in the film is a certain sort of Chilean exceptionalism. Urged on by the idea of Chile as an island, it seems to be implied that things happen different here. Yet while many of the historic events which are recounted in the documentary are specific to Chile, most of the problems suffered are universal.

To take one example, someone (I think it’s Salas) says, “I could go to Argentina or Brazil, but this is my home. I must stay here”. The implication is that conditions in Chile are clearly worse than in it’s neighbours. Yet if you want an example of exactly the same neoliberal policies which destroyed Chile for most of its inhabitants, your first stop would be Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil. And, of course, the Chicago boys who sold off Chile had strong ties to the US government.

Die Kordilliere der Träume is beautifully filmed although sometimes there’s a certain poetic mysticism which can blunt the political message. You are also bombarded with information, which is not always presented chronologically so it could be quite easy to get lost or overwhelmed. Still, it looks great and is clearly on the right side of history. Well worth a go.

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