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/ARTS WEEKLY/ FILM-CHILE: Heroes Fed Up with Fighting

Gustavo González

SANTIAGO, Dec 2 2003 (IPS) - The son of the legendary leader of the Chilean Revolutionary Leftist Movement (MIR) has sparked a firestorm of political debate with his new documentary, “Chile: Los héroes están fatigados” (Chile: The Heroes Are Tired).

Director Marco Enríquez, whose father Miguel Enríquez was assassinated by the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in 1974, is a sort of “bad boy” and a part of the “red set”, an expression used in Chile for the eccentrics who frequent the circles of entertainment stars and tabloid journalists.

On Dec. 7, the filmmaker will marry TV journalist and announcer Karen Doggenweiler, anticipating “the ‘other’ wedding of the year” – that of recently retired football star Iván Zamorano and fashion model Kena Larraín.

“Chile: los héroes están fatigados” premiered in Santiago on Nov. 13, giving film-goers a glimpse – through Enríquez’s eyes – of leftist leaders of the 1960s and 1970s who have since transformed into members of the “establishment”.

Described by critics as “irreverent”, “pretentious” and “biased”, the film includes discrediting references to several leadership figures of Chile’s democratic transition begun on Mar. 11, 1990, the end of the 17-year Pinochet dictatorship.

The documentary, which was first screened in October at the Biarritz Film Festival in France, even takes aim at President Ricardo Lagos, who declined to be interviewed by Enríquez.

After making it clear that he failed to include the president in the cast of interviewees, the director says in a voice-over that “Lagos chooses to converse with the right-wing media and he even talks to his Labrador dog on TV programmes.”

In the end, the only leftist leader who comes off well in the documentary is Carlos Ominami, a senator of the Socialist Party (PS) – and Enríquez’s step-father.

The lawmaker married the director’s mother, journalist Manuel Gumucio, while both were living in exile in Paris. Marco, who considers Ominami his father in the emotional sense, decided two years ago to have his surname legally registered as Enríquez-Ominami.

In the documentary, the filmmaker appears conversing with his biological father. The special effect that made this impossible meeting a reality consisted of substituting the director’s image for that of Leonardo Cáceres in a recording of a TV interview conducted in the early 1970s.

The trick is known in the film world as “the Forrest Gump effect”, because it was used in the 1994 U.S. film of that name so that the protagonist, played by Tom Hanks, appears in historic scenes, such as saluting president John F. Kennedy, and with other public figures of past decades.

Marco was born Jun. 12, 1973, and never knew his father, who had already separated from Gumucio. His father was totally immersed – as the MIR secretary-general – in the political maelstrom in the period before the Sep. 11 coup that year, which overthrew the Popular Unity government of socialist Salvador Allende.

Miguel Enríquez, who headed the MIR since 1967, gave the order to the movement’s militants to remain in Chile in order to organise the resistance against the Pinochet dictatorship, while most of the cadres of other leftist groups chose exile.

The slogan “the MIR does not seek exile” was condemned later as “suicide”, and cost Miguel Enríquez his own life. He was killed on Oct. 5, 1974 by agents of the National Intelligence Directorate, the much-feared DINA, after a long battle in the San Miguel district of south-central Santiago.

Marco grew up with the legendary image of his father, who was made into a hero of the movements that were even farther left than orthodox communists, both in Latin America and in Europe. He was especially venerated in Cuba.

In 1983, Cuban President Fidel Castro invited the young Marco to Havana to meet him. It proved a shocking experience for the future filmmaker, according to an interview published in La Tercera newspaper last March.

“It was very strange. I learned that I had to let people look at me. And on other occasions I had to deal with some buxom older women who would approach me and whisper ‘you could have been my son’. They, of course, had been my father’s lovers,” he said..

The same publication described Miguel Enríquez as “the most sought after and sexy revolutionary Chile has ever had,” characteristics that were only half passed on to his son, who maintains a distance from radical politics, but was involved in a series of romances with local stars in recent years.

“Marco Enríquez is perhaps the best metaphor for the evolution of the Chilean left. His status as a womaniser was in his father an accessory to his revolutionary commitment, even with all the machismo of his image as a Don Juan,” Adolfo Rodríguez, a former MIR militant, said in a conversation with IPS.

“For Marcos, things appear to be reversed: his entry into the entertainment world is an odd mixture of defiance and subjugation aimed at legitimising himself to a society in which he cannot fill the space of his father. A lukewarm radical confronted with a revolutionary left that has been left without proposals,” added Rodríguez.

In “Chile: The Heroes Are Tired”, Enríquez brings discredit on former minister José Joaquín Brunner, considered one of the leading intellectuals of the governing centre-left coalition, Concertación por la Democracia.

Brunner “speaks of university for all, and ends up working in the most expensive universities of the country, run by the right-wing,” says the filmmaker in his documentary.

Former minister Enrique Correa, of the Socialist Party, takes a thrashing for his current work as a lobbyist for big corporations and for his statements suggesting that “there is no room for passion in politics, only reason.”

Oscar Guillermo Garretón, leader in the 1970s of one of the far-left sectors of the Popular Unity coalition, is highlighted in the film as the former director of the giant Telefónica, the company that increased the number of phone lines in Chile from 800,000 to two million. In this way, Garretón “has given greater power to the people,” says Enríquez with a note of irony.

Socialist José Miguel Insulza, current minister of interior and former foreign minister for the Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle administration (1994-2000), comes under fire for the efforts he made to prevent Pinochet from being extradited to Spain after his October 1998 arrest in London on charges of crimes against humanity.

“Being the son of a brave man who died in a battle with the military forces that subjugated the country does not give anyone the right to judge who is a leftist,” said journalist Paulina Elissetche about the controversial documentary.

“I applaud President Lagos for having the intuition to not grant an interview to the simple, arrogant and disloyal little boy,” she added.

Elissetche criticised his use of the interviews that Garretón, Correa, Brunner and Insulza, and other personalities had given Enríquez in good faith.

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