In September 1973 Augusto Pinochet, backed by America, overthrew Chile’s Marxist but democratically elected government. Under his direct orders the Chilean secret police erected vast prison camps to detain left wing sympathisers. No-one was safe - doctors, lawyers, trade unionists and Communists were all rounded up in the night. Held without trial in Pinochet’s prisons they were brutally tortured and many executed; an attempt by Pinochet to stamp his ideological mark on the consciousness of a nation. Dressed in his pristine white military jacket Pinochet chillingly told the camera, “Marxism is like a ghost, it’s very difficult to catch - even impossible to trap.”
As the numbers of Chileans arrested and imprisoned grew into hundreds of thousands their communist allies watched in horror. The media was banned from Pinochet’s prisons, but the crew behind this film was working with East Germany’s Stasi intelligence services. They managed to persuade Pinochet to allow them into two of the camps. Operating on Western passports they made 2 visits, pretending they were producing Western-backed propaganda. It was a classic case of the cold war double-bluff. Though their permits said they could visit the camps, but not speak to the prisoners, incredibly the prison authorities missed that vital information.
Out of the desert camp come the faces of frightened men – uncertain of the future Pinochet had in store for them. One by one they tell their stories to the camera. Some admit they are politically active, others say they were arrested for reasons as simple as having studied in Cuba. Some are old people, some are women. None know what charges they face, or when they will come to trial. The camp doctor describes the neurosis and mental illness suffered by the prisoners who can only imagine the worst of fates. Young men in particular are forced through 're-education' and the camera captures groups of them marching and singing military songs.
Many prisoners had been held at the National Stadium many miles away. The survivors were the lucky ones. The film crew secretly captured what went on there with telephoto lenses. The powerful images show men kneeling with their hands in the air, being kicked and beaten with the butts of soldiers’ guns. Others show men being marched into the stadium stripped naked with blankets over their heads, their fate probably electric torture or death by firing squad. They only hint at the full horrific story of a cleansing of leftist sympathisers.
Pinochet's extradition means no dictator can continue to sleep easy. The truth of his brutal regime is laid bare in this moving and exclusive film.