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SALVADOR ALLENDE (director/writer: Patricio Guzmán; cinematographers: Julia Munoz/Patricio Guzmán; editor: Claudio Martinez; music: Jorge Arriagada; Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jacques Bidou; Icarus Films; 2004-Chile-in English/French Spanish with English subtitles

It’s a solid no-nonsense documentary.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán (“The Battle of Chile”/”Nostalgia for the Light”/”The Pinochet Case“)returns to Chile some 30 years after the overthrow of the Popular Unity leader Salvador Allende and directs a warm homage to the dead idealistic socialist president of Chile. Salvador Allende was elected on November 4, 1970, becoming the first elected Marxist president in Latin America, and on September 11, 1973, during a coup d’Etat on his legally elected democratic government, Allende took his own life.Filmmaker Guzmán went into exile as the repressive military junta came into power to be followed by the even more repressive dictatorship of General Pinochet, with full support from the Nixon administration. Pinochet’s bloody totalitarian regime lasted for 17-years.

Little political insight is offered in this intimate and personal pic, as Guzmán chooses instead to warmly portray Allende as an honorable, intelligent and humanitarian figure. He tells us that Allende was just as much a reformist democrat as a leftist revolutionary. His friendship with Castro, his ridding Chile of U.S. influence, his collectivization of farms and nationalization of factories and big business alarmed both the right-wing and middle-class bourgeoisie of Chile, as well as the western world. Thereby the western countries supported his opposition with funds and the U.S. used the CIA for covert political assignments, including, the assassination of Allende’s protective top general. Allende’s decision not to control the army meant he could not count on them in a time of trouble, such as during right-wing led strikes. All these volatile conditions led to his downfall. Newsreel and home footage helps us see the Valparaiso physician as a nice guy and good campaigner, who wanted to make life better for the workers and the poor. There’s also lots of talking head stuff, that ranged from the octogenarian daughter of his nanny telling us his favorite dish was empanadas and the articulate Edward Korry, the former United States ambassador to Chile, who gave us a few tidbits on how much President Nixon hated Allende and referred to him as that S.O.B..

It’s a solid no-nonsense documentary, that sheds some light on the popular but controversial Chilean president who had a tumultuous three years in office, but fails to get into the great part the CIA played in Allende’s downfall and averts talking about Allende’s faults as a politician–such as his inexpedient handling of the economy.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”