What About Politics?

in 26th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema

by Andrzej Werner

The place is very important. Not only because of the possibility given by the vast panorama of Latin American Cinema shown during the Festival. The first and very simple remark is: we observe relatively small interest in the political problems traditionally crucial for Latin America. Among the films presented in the competition section only two films dealt with these problems: the Chilean Machuca by Andres Wood and the Brazilian Almost Brothers ( Quase dois irmaos ) by Lucia Murat.

The first one is closed within the frame of history, the past reigns here. In Santiago de Chile in 1973, a legally established government of Allende is in power; it’s politically divided, the country is on the edge of civil war. We observe it from one particular point of view: the narration is focused on the difficult but charming friendship between two youngsters who belong to opposite social classes of entirely different political sympathies. Nevertheless the political scene remains the most important. Everything ends at the beginning of Pinochet’s coup d’etat and murderous pacification of the social sphere supporting the potential opposition.

This sad story has a very important impact on social consciousness not only in Latin America. Allende’s Chile remains the only one of the communist countries which was broken at the very beginning of its existence. What would have happened if it hadn’t been broken? If Allende could have ruled his country for the next few years? Who would have followed him and how? The Chilean experience of the recent past still serves as a sort of a myth which helps one to dream about the “third way” between capitalism and communism, about communism without totalitarian or dictatorship. It seems to be especially interesting to ask these questions from Havana , one of the two communist countries that still exist.

The second film mentioned above shows us what happens if the flow of time, the flow of history is not held up. It can help us to answer some of the questions presented before. The first part of this very interesting film takes place among political prisoners detained in horrible conditions. In spite of their suffering from the extremely brutal treatment, in spite of the social, cultural, racial, and even ideological differences between them, full solidarity reigns in this place of martyrdom. They do not protest against being held with common prisoners: they fought against political and social conditions which made poor, ordinary people criminals. But time flows by, some of the prisoners leave prison, become honest members of a much more democratic society. More democratic but one that produces other social diseases: we know all the brutality of contemporary life in Rio. If happily not from personal experience, the Brazilian cinema can easily provide a lot of evidence. In the movie we see criminals in prison as well, they terrorise the rest of the former political terrorists. On the other hand, one of the political prisoners, being still in prison rules a gang of juvenile killers by mobile phone. The decomposition of the former solidarity is complete.

Back on the Havana streets late afternoon. What will your future be, my newly beloved place, so poor, unhappy and joyful now, seen for the first time two weeks ago?

Andrzej Werner