Conversations with Patricio Guzmán
by Jorge Ruffinelli
Lightening up the rhetoric and making the story flow
It's true that Jorge Luis Borges retouched all his texts. A poem of his is different in each edition because he assumed the right of not giving birth to a text once and for always. But in cinema, subsequent corrections are less common. Or re-editing, although what you've done isn't re-editing...
No, I haven't touched a single shot. I haven't changed a single image.
But it's unusual.
I don't know. I don't have recent information about the re-montaging of documentaries. I think that The Hour of the Furnaces was re-montaged more than once. But, actually, I'm ignorant on this subject. What I do know about are the text touch-ups, like those that Chris Marker did, for example, with The Base of the Air is Red a little while ago.
When The Battle of Chile appeared, it was a landmark in Latin American cinema, and not only in documentaries, but in film in general...
Yes, it had good reviews, without a doubt.
Not only the reviews, but also important awards and mass recognition. It was an immediate classic of Latin American cinema and a work that influenced other creators, whether they be younger or of your own generation. How conscious are you of the influence of your film? How much have others acknowledged it to you?
Some friends and colleagues have acknowledged it, but not all.
In addition to the testaments of admiration, support, and recognition, your film, undoubtedly also provoked rejection, censorship, and criticism from other sectors. What evidence do you have of this?
I remember that in one of its first moments, it was rejected by the most radical Latin American left. But this lasted a short time. By the end, the film imposed itself. In the United States, for example, the distribution company Tricontinental Film Center, which seemed to have wanted to give a different image of the Chilean situation, delayed the film's release for a year. They later rectified themselves, maybe because the reviews were very favorable in the U.S.
-In Europe it went well, although certain French reviews ignored the film and kept completely silent, like Cahiers. Even up until now, when French compendium are written on the cinéma direct of the sixties and seventies, my name doesn't appear. In those years in Paris, the great defender of The Battle of Chile was Louis Marcorelles of Le Monde. /p>
How has it worked out in Chile?
-For four years, I talked with all the television channels, without ever getting any results. The film frightened them and produced contradictory reactions. I finally had the luck of finding a documentary production company, Nueva Imagenagreed to release the film to the home-video market in 1999. Since the same company had co-produced Chile, Obstinate Memory, we made a four-film package: the three parts of The Battle of Chile, plus this film. So far, it sells well, if slowly. Maybe next year we can organize a cinematographic premiere of the four films in a theater. You never know.
-The Chilean exhibitors and television channels are, in general, conservative in their programming material. Neither one is familiar with the documentary genre, except for with the Discovery Channel and their animal series. Very few know what the cinema verite is.