There is a very popular quote by George Santayana that says “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” But what if an event in history happens that’s so tragic that it represses the memories of those who are supposed to teach us? The “Obstinate Memory,” a film by Patricio Guzman, touches on this very question when he explores the Republic of Chile 23 years after the Battle of Chile.
The Battle of Chile is not well known to many Americans. The story, however, holds great importance. In September 1973, the military regime overthrew the democratic party creating a new dictatorship and environment of fear. Around 3,000 people were killed and tens of thousands were tortured or exiled. People were afraid to speak or even think in fear of the consequences of the regime.
The film is a sequel to Guzman’s first trilogy “Battle of Chile” which was comprised of films depicting the live events from the battle. The first film was almost not produced because of the strict censorship and Guzman was sentenced to be exiled during the production. However, the film rolls were protected and the trilogy was released in 1978.
The film “Obstinate Memory” begins with Guzman’s return to Chile 23 years later to see the outcome of the coup. The film showcases personal stories and pictures from families of both parties. The theme of memory is continuously present throughout the film through interviews and flashbacks. In the interviews, some people have repressed memories of the coup because of the trauma they had endured, not remembering themselves in pictures taken from the battle. Others’ memories have been reshaped by fear and denial.
“Remembering is returning to the past” said one victim.
Although the history of Chile may not seem relevant to people in the United States, it is important to be educated about the history of the countries surrounding us, because these events can easily be repeated if forgotten.
If you missed this film, do not fret; the human rights group and art historians will continue to run showings and discussions about other mass human rights violations around the world. The next event will be on September 20th at the Human Rights Film series at the Thomas J. Dodd center about the events in Charlottesville, and they will continue to have pop-up shows throughout the semester.
Morgan Levitt is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.