The Judge and the General
The Judge and the General is a 2008 feature-length documentary film about Juan Guzman's attempts to bring Augusto Pinochet to justice for human rights crimes.
The Judge and the General tells a story of personal transformation, as a Chilean judge descends into what he calls the "abyss" of investigating crimes committed by the government of General Augusto Pinochet during the 1970's and 1980's in Chile.
Appeals Court Judge Juan Guzman opposed the democratically elected Salvador Allende and supported General Pinochet until being assigned in 1998--by judicial lottery--the first criminal cases against him. Filmmakers Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco follow Guzman's investigations as he solves cases of murder and kidnapping and considers whether to indict Pinochet.
Viewers watch as Guzman confronts his past collusion with the military government and faces his own doubts about whether Pinochet should be indicted or not.
The documentary begins with Judge Guzmans expressions of anguish, as he watches supporters of Pinochet taunt opponents during the generals funeral in Santiago in December 2006. The taunts which laud the killings of the Pinochet yearstake Guzman back to the hatred and chaos of the Allende period, the 1973 Pinochet coup, and ensuing terror. The film flashes back briefly to those years, as Guzman and others recall that time.
The film then follows two investigations which take viewers deeply into the story.
Manuel Donoso was a young sociology professor killed just after the coup. The documentary cuts back and forth between a disinterment of Donosos remains and his wifes story, as she recounts his arrest, torture and death. The case widens out as the documentary moves between past and present, and other characters place the crime in context.
The other key case features Cecilia (Chechi) Castro, whose mother, Edita, faced a ghastly Sophies Choice. She led Pinochets secret police to her daughters hiding place in order to save a granddaughters life. Judge Guzman and detectives investigate this case from, among other locations, a boat off the Chilean coast, where underwater cameras capture the shocking images of divers bringing up rails that had been tied to bodies of political prisoners thrown into the sea.
Guzman is, perhaps, the good German, a citizen blind to the crimes around him until chance forces him into an investigation he never sought and didnt want. As a young man he had served briefly as a clerk in the Court of Appeals during the worst years of repression under Pinochet. Judges of that court had to decide on thousands of habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of victims, many of whom had disappeared into secret detention centers. Nearly all the petitions were denied, and Juan Guzman wrote some of those denials. Had they been granted, many lives would have been saved. Viewers watch as he struggles with this memory and describes how his investigation made him realize how blind he had been. I would say it opened the eyes of my soul, he says.
Guzmans colleagues-attorneys and judgeshad doubted Guzmans competence and his willingness to pursue Pinochet. By the end of the film, viewers will know whether they were right or wrong.
The Judge and the General won a duPont-Columbia Award for excellence in broadcast journalism. It also gained an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Historical Programming and a Directors Guild of America (DGA) nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary.
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