Elizabeth Farnsworth, along with Patricio Lanfranco, directed The Judge and the General. After the film aired on POV, viewers wrote in with questions. Read on for Elizabeth’s responses.
Sarah asks: To what extent do you believe that the members of the Chilean military were aware of what was going on during Pinochet’s reign, in terms of the murders, kidnappings and torture? I’m interested in the dynamics of the military under Pinochet, and how some of those officers are dealing with their past roles today.
Elizabeth Farnsworth: Trials are still underway, and criminal charges continue to be filed, so the number of people directly involved in these crimes is as yet unclear.
The number of people involved were a minority of the military, but that was still a large number. You might want to read the report of the National Commission on Political Prison and Torture to learn more, especially about the large number of prisons operating during Pinochet’s regime, all of which needed personnel. Some soldiers have come forward as witnesses, as you could see in the film (Juan Molina). Many of the top officers, however, have refused to admit their guilt, even after being sent to prison. The Chilean military says that all people charged with human rights crimes have been dismissed.
David asks: Will The Judge and the General be translated into Spanish and circulated around South America? I’m interested in hearing what viewers from Chile and the rest of South American think of the film.
Farnsworth: A Spanish subtitled version of The Judge and the General had its Chilean premiere on Saturday, August 23, and has been showing at the Santiago International Film Festival this week. Latin American Pay TV will show the documentary in most of Latin America next year.
Sonia asks: I was a student in 1976, protesting the Pinochet government and the role of the CIA in Allende’s overthrow. We knew what was happening in Chile and we knew our own country — the U.S. — played a role in Allende’s overthrow. It has taken all this time for the people of Chile to know the truth. What of people in the U.S.? Don’t we deserve to know the role of the CIA played in Chile and in other places around the world? Why do you think these stories — like your film — are only told many years later? Why can’t these stories be told as they’re happening?
Farnsworth: It’s true that many facts are only surfacing now, but even in the 1970s, good reporters around the world were uncovering some of these events, which wasn’t easy given the paranoia of the Cold War. Thanks to those reporters, many people are alive now.
For example, if you read the U.S. press from 1970s, you will find detailed reports by journalists like Seymour Hersh about the Nixon administration’s intervention in Chile. His sources in the CIA and elsewhere didn’t reveal everything, but some aspects of the policies were known almost as they occurred.
Also, there were hearings in Congress in the mid-1970s, which were well-covered by the press. Many Americans did know about these events and protested them, as you did. Additionally, the investigation into the 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C., led to investigative reports and books about the Pinochet era crimes. Later, during the Clinton administration, thousands of official government documents detailing were released which detailed Nixon administration policies towards Chile. Nevertheless, some Chileans and Americans think more remains to be done, including a truth commission of some sort, that would reveal the full extent of U.S. involvement in Chile.