Posted by paulrivas on:
Before the 11th of September became 9/11/2001, it was el 11 de septiembre de 1973. On this day in Chile, a Nixon-backed military coup put the murderous dictator Pinochet in power in place of the democratically elected government of Allende. The members of Allende's cabinet were rounded up as prisoners of war and confined to a military camp on Dawson Island, at the southernmost tip of South America, where they remained for one year until their release was brokered by the Red Cross, United Nations and Teddy Kennedy.
Dawson Isla 10 is a fictionalized but realistic account of the prisoners' experience, based on the diaries of Sergio Bitar, known at the camp by his assigned prisoner name of Isla 10 (Island Barracks prisoner #10).
As the guy in charge of preparing 40 UCSB students per year to spend a semester or two in Chile, Rivas Cultural Services was very keen to seen this film. Feel free to leave a comment expressing surprise and/or dismay that only one of the 27 students going next fall was in attendance. She was in good company, though, as such local luminaries as Dick & Mickey Flacks and Victor Fuentes were there, as were local celebrities Ed & Toni Holdren.
Perhaps most remarkable about the movie is that it was actually filmed on Dawson Island, in an environment so forbidding that the crew could not have been enjoying conditions much better than those of the prisoners in the film, minus the beatings, forced labor and worse. The first minutes included documentary footage of a humanitarian delegation's visit to the premises, during which a guard stumbles over his words to try and explain the concentration camp vibe of the prisoners' accommodations.
The prisoners' will to get out alive and the personal conflict on the part of some of the guards at the fact that they were imprisoning their fellow countrymen - which even led to incidents of outright compassion - were also extraordinarily well portrayed. There's even some humor, as one would imagine there must always be, even in such dire circumstances. At one point, the lieutenant in command asks one of the more sympathetic soldiers, "¿Usted es tonto, o se hace?"
Go see Dawson Isla 10 tomorrow at 1:15pm at the Metro 4.