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Storming the Streets

Storming the Streets (photo)

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Somehow, there hardly seems a more pertinent time for a wide U.S. release of Patricio Guzmán’s epochal “The Battle of Chile” (1975-78), a massive, three-part vérité documentary about the rise of Salvador Allende’s socialist government and its subsequent usurpation by the country’s American-backed military junta.

The title of Part 1 — “The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie” — says it all: imagine, if you can, the heaven-sent Bizarro-world where a people-power government is successfully installed, triumphantly wresting control of the starving nation’s major industries and resources from corporations and multinationals, and thereby precipitating an overt and covert insurrection led by the business owners and bankers and moneyed class.

You know a truly democratic, for-the-people policy is working if you enrage the wealthy, a rare situation that smacks, lightly, of what’s happening in this country at the moment, as Republicans and corporations have gone berserk trying to stop Obama from poking holes in the pockets of the health insurance industry. It resembles as well the Satanic makeover Hugo Chavez gets in the American media, for essentially pulling an Allende on the multinationals coveting Venezuelan oil.

But, of course, what happened in Chile could never happen here, as Guzmán’s scathing work demonstrates — this movie documents a degree of active engagement you hardly see anymore: entire city populations storming the streets time and time again, first students, then suited businessmen, then tanks and trucks full of banner-waving workers and singing crowds and, eventually, armed troops, firing at will. But when it does happen nowadays, as it did earlier this year in Iran, it’s shut down almost immediately, and we see precious little of it in any case. Controlling the media message is controlling everything, but because the right-wing coup in Chile was caught in the process of happening, there was no control at all.

12082009_battleofchile5.jpgIn a broader sense, Guzmán was shooting his on-the-shoulder footage in a different day, on the final cusp of the Vietnam War protest era, when authorities public and private hadn’t yet learned exactly how vital disallowing on-location documentary filmmaking — or at least embedding it — was to their interests and their grip on power.

This freedom gives “Battle” an eye-scorching immediacy that docs just don’t have anymore, forced as they are lately to rely on library footage, interviews and news film already pressed through the censorship filters. Guzmán and his team were free to film, but of course they were also free to be shot on the spot (Part 1 ends, famously, with soldiers aiming directly at the lens filming them and shooting down the man behind the camera), and to be arrested, tortured and killed later by Pinochet’s death squads, which is how Guzmán’s main DP, Jorge Müller Silva, died.

Of course, Guzmán’s widely circulated film didn’t change anything anyway — Pinochet gained and retained control, history rolled forward without Allende, and the corpses of the disappeared accumulated in Chile. All of this is circumstantial in regards to “Battle,” and it ignores Guzmán’s achievement, which is not merely a fact of courage under fire, but of storytelling precision.

Over the course of almost five hours, the film scrupulously details every step in the political tangle, beginning with Allende’s successes and the business confederations’ subsequent strikes and embargoes, starving the country, to the final blitzing, on September 11, 1973, of the presidential palace, reducing it, Allende and the Chilean dream of social equity, to rubble.

12082009_battleofchile2.jpgThat the CIA and the Pentagon were behind the insurrection may still be an arguable and semi-classified matter here, but virtually every laborer Guzmán meets on the streets of Santiago in 1973 says as much, in no uncertain terms. (“[O]f course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown…” Kissinger was recorded telling Nixon in 1973, in conversations declassified in 2004 and easily found online, “I mean, instead of celebrating… In the Eisenhower period we would be heroes.”)

Co-produced by Chris Marker, Guzmán’s historic epic creates a storm in the belly, even today. In the brick-thick Icarus set, it’s accompanied by Guzmán’s 1997 doc “Chile, Obstinate Memory,” which plays as merely another brick in the edifice Guzmán has devoted his career to building, a monument to the catastrophe of Chilean political life in the last half of the 20th century. As with all vital documentaries, one can only dream of a world where they are viewed and acted upon by a conscientious public.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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