1. No, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Remember the 1973 U.S.-sponsored coup against Chile’s President Salvador Allende, the first and only elected socialist at the time in Latin America? Pinochet, the military strongman who came into power, killed and tortured thousands, and disappeared thousands more. His henchmen broke the bones in folk singer Victor Jara‘s hands, then executed him with others, in the Chile Stadium (re-named the Victor Jara Stadium in 2003). For those of us in the North American left movement, this coup felt very personal, as if it could have happened to us.
In 1988, finally, there was a referendum on Pinochet in Chile. Each side–pro or con on the Dictator– was allowed a sequence of fifteen-minute ads on nation-wide TV. This movie is about the “No” campaign. How to use that light bright commercial medium to get the military tyrant’s heel off the neck of the people? So much pain to convey; so much need for hope! Not a fast-paced film, but instead an authentic account of the aftermath of Pinochet’s damage, which, understandably, almost overwhelms the left’s ability to get the job done. Ah, but not quite, so Chile finally gets to move on to the post-modern mostly capitalist mess that characterizes our current time.
2. Ginger and Rosa, starring Elle Fanning. During the Cuban missile crisis there were reports of how many millions would be lost in Europe if the U.S. and the Soviet Union had a nuclear exchange. As a young teenager I had spent sleepless nights after finishing books from my parents’ shelves about the bombing of Hiroshima, and the torture of Algerian guerrillas by the French. So I was primed for the nervous fear of nuclear annihilation that came just as I started college. My mother was so concerned that she came out of her political retirement to resume activism in the Women’s Strike for Peace, and that must have reassured me, because I don’t remember being as terrified as I should have been.
This movie takes us inside the British Ban the Bomb movement during this tense time, from the viewpoint of two sensitive young girls, one of whom is all too certain that everyone is going to die. They both struggle, not only with the fear of no future, but also with the internal dynamics of their families. Here the rough personal situation wreaks havoc, but at least no thermonuclear war, so that’s something to be happy about, innit?
Each film presents a detailed, persuasive reconstruction of a time gone by in a country other than the USA. The mature viewer remembers times and places that resonate with Shulamith Firestone’s truth: the personal is political. And, the reverse is also true. The political is personal as well.