The Judge and the General explores the criminal investigation of General Augusto Pinochet, who led a military regime in Chile for nearly 20 years. In 1973, Pinochet led a military coup that ousted the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. In the service of his anti-Communist crusade and with U.S. help, Pinochet’s military and intelligence community consolidated power with a campaign of violence that included secret prisons, torture and murder. Hundreds of Chileans “disappeared” — never to be seen again.
In 1998, relatives of victims filed suit against the former dictator and a judicial lottery assigned the case to a conservative judge, Juan Guzmán, who was known to be a longtime Pinochet supporter. The filmmakers, who were granted unique access to Judge Guzmán’s criminal investigation, might have expected to document a cover-up. Instead, they witnessed a profound personal transformation as Guzmán descends into what he calls the “abyss,” and uncovers a past that includes his own role in the tragedy.
For Judge Juan Guzmán, a man who says that his investigations “opened the eyes of my soul,” there is one clear choice: “A wounded country needs to know the truth.”
For filmmakers Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco, The Judge and the General was an opportunity to explore the aftermath of the 1973 coup. Patricio is Chilean and lived through it all. Elizabeth helped make a film in Chile in the early 1970s and has been haunted by what happened there ever since.
Patricio Lanfranco says: “One of the hopes I had for the film was to encourage the same kind of transformation in Chilean society. The Pinochet regime was a huge mistake that we committed as a society, and it is important for Chileans to see the truth and make sure this situation could never happen again.”
Elizabeth Farnsworth says: “I was interested in understanding the phenomenon of ‘the Good German,’ the conscientious person of high ideals who goes along with state terror because it offers safety and order in a time of chaos.”
Juan Guzmán was such a person. As a young man, he closed his eyes to the terrible things that were happening in his country. But as we see in The Judge and the General, Guzmán had the courage to face his mistake and expose the truth.
What do you think of Judge Guzmán, his support of Pinochet as a young man and his change of mind? Why do millions of people stand by and allow injustice to happen? Have you ever been in a situation where you kept quiet instead of standing up for what’s right? What can be done to encourage citizens to fight against injustice?