In September 1973, only a few days after the military Coup d’Etat in Chile, the police places 19 trade unionists, employees of the same paper factory (CMPC), under arrest and takes them to the station in the small town of Laja. Five days go by without any news from the prisoners – except that they’ve been transferred to a city where no-one can find them. By the end of a six-year inquiry, their corpses are found in a nearby cemetery. No explanation is given. We will have to wait 40 years (until 2013, we might as well say yesterday…) for the policemen involved to decide to confess the massacre. If these group confessions are unique in the recent history of Chile, their character is all the more meaningful that the landscape the events took place in has remained unchanged: the factory, the forests providing lumber and the trains carrying it, Yumbel’s cemetery, the roads followed by the workers, the vehicles identified by the name of the paper manufacturer having commissioned the execution…
The choice Carlos Vásquez Méndez and Teresa Arredondo Lugon have made is simple. First of all, filming a landscape stripped of all innocence, and now haunted. Filming it in a stark manner, as in an archive or a systematic inquiry: through long descriptive shots. So we can hear, then, the murderous policemen’s confession off camera as truth of these places and their voices kept silent up to that point. Except that the voices, though finally speaking of the events, are those of the murdered workers’ parents’, not the guilty ones. The film does not seek justice; it is more modestly and more radically determined to offer a rendition of a terrifying story while attempting to give back a landscape and employment to its inhabitants today. (JPR)
Original version: Spanish.
Subtitles: English, French.
Scenario: Carlos Vásquez Méndez, Teresa Arredondo Lugon.
Picture: Carlos Vásquez Méndez.
Editing: Martín Sappia, Carlos Vásquez Méndez.
Sound: Andrea López Millán.
With: Ernesto Fica Toledo, Erna Orellana Moya, Luis Palma Leon, Segundo, Calfulén, Osvaldo Soto Bahamondes, Jorge Leon, Eusebio Suarez Oñate, Richard Saravia Bravo.
Production: Laguna Negra (Teresa Arredondo Lugon). DeReojo Comunicaciones (Patricio Muñoz).
Filmography: Carlos Vásquez Méndez: Pewen, 2016. Teresa Arredondo Lugon: Sibila, 2012.
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