Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 16, 2008

Movie examines U.S. – Chilean relations

When junior Ashley Atkinson found out about the role the U.S. played in aiding a Chilean dictator commit atrocities against human rights, she said she was determined to find a way to spread awareness about it at Knox.

Atkinson did just that in bringing the documentary The Judge and the General to Knox on Friday, Oct. 3.

According to Atkinson, the documentary follows Chilean judge Juan Guzman as he investigated human rights violations in Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet. Guzman, a Pinochet supporter, soon discovered socialist students and professors were being tortured, arrested and disappeared by the government.

One of the most startling aspects of the film, according to Atkinson, is the role the U.S. played in putting Pinochet in power. Even though socialist Salvador Allende was democratically elected president in 1970, the U.S. government viewed him as a threat.

“The U.S. didn’t want another communist Cuba,” Atkinson said. The U.S. ultimately helped to overthrow Allende by providing Pinochet supporters with weapons, spending three million dollars on a campaign against Allende and not exporting goods to Chile.

Atkinson compared the 80-minute documentary to a science fiction movie.

“It’s so unreal that the U.S. could have done it,” she said.

Atkinson said she felt the film was important to show at Knox because many of the people who were punished by Pinochet were liberal students.

“That could have been us,” she said. Atkinson also said the film is relevant because much of the evidence that proved the U.S. aided Pinochet was only revealed recently. “It makes you wonder what [government officials] aren’t telling us.”

Atkinson first learned about the disappeared in Chile from books by Allende’s granddaughter, Isabel Allende. After learning more about the disappeared in classes at Knox, Atkinson searched for a way to increase awareness on campus.

“I had an inkling that people didn’t realize how much of a role the U.S. played in the events that occurred in Chile,” she said.

When Atkinson came across the film, she invited Estudiantes sin Fronteras and Spanish Club to help with the showing.

Although Atkinson was disappointed by the turnout of only 25-30 students at the viewing, she said she was pleased with the event, which included a discussion after the movie ended.

During the discussion students mainly discussed the role U.S. played in Chile and democratic voting. Some students argued for instituting mandatory voting in the U.S., which is often used in Latin American countries.

Jenna Temkin

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