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Review of Nae Pasaran February 2019

Rosie Brocklehurst – Hastings Resident

Nae Pasaran: a rare, moving documentary offering a deep insight about solidarity shown by Scottish workers in the 1970s in support of Chile and the impact of their actions discovered decades later

Yesterday, I went out for first time in ages , to the St Leonards Kino, and was completely uplifted and moved by Nae Pasaran, auteur Felipe Bustos Sierra’s Scottish Bafta award-winning brilliant documentary, released in 2018. Felipe also took 24 hours in a difficult journey from Scotland, to join the audience at the Kino and answer questions, and to help raise the profile of the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project for local refugee families.

Nae Pasaran is doing the rounds of selected cinemas and will be shown on BBC Scotland in late February (27th February 2019 and on iPlayer for one month). In 2012, BBC 4 turned down the opportunity to fund it, stupidly. But the film is of such a depth and quality it demands the BBC redeems itself by negotating with its arm over the border, to give it a national showing.

Beautifully crafted, the film took six years to complete. It tells a story on multiple-levels; but centres on four long-retired workers at Rolls Royce in East Kilbride, who at the end of their lives, become aware for the first time how their actions, years before, in the 1970s, saved the lives of at least seven terrorised men thousands of miles away in Chile. It is a revelation to watch realisation dawn on the men’s faces – as we absorb the testimonials of those still alive in Chile because of them. The Chilean Junta had released captives once they realised that they were being monitored and might not get their paid-for engines…. the Scottish engineering workers had refused the use of their skilled Labour to supply the murderous dictatorship with Rolls Royce engines for the Hawker Hunter. The word got around on underground radio and word of mouth, which lifted morale in Chile as the oppressed and frightened realised they were not alone.

Solidarity is a major thread in this story of four good men, and their compatriots , all selfless Scottish engineers, in East Kilbride, who at some risk to themselves, ‘blacked’ Rolls Royce engines they were working on that had been ordered by the Chilean Junta. They were to be used to expand their arms capacity in their CIA-backed coup. Two of those aircraft can be seen in archive film from 1973, as the Chilean Military drop rockets on the Democratically elected Socialist President’s Palace in Santiago. Salvador Allende was killed. The Scottish workers, one aged 95, who had fought in WW2, had no idea if their actions had had any effect. Forty years later, the men discover how their brave decision had saved lives, at a time when torture was an everyday occurrence and 80,000 people were disappeared, and murdered in cold blood by Pinochet’s military regime. We watch the ageing workers’ faces as they wrestle to fully grasp the impact they had had all those years before. (In the film they are invited to a surprise ceremony and given one of Chile’s highest honours by the Chilean Ambassador).

The black heart of the Junta is represented by a former General. In Hannah Arendt’s phrase, he evokes ‘the banality of evil’. It is a rare interview with the former supreme Commander of Chile’s air force during the time of the Junta. He is filmed in his gated community house replete with Christian iconography, a shifty ageing automaton, devoid of humanity, integrity or conscience, but about to face his maker. His crimes may well have included being the second pilot of the two Hawker Hunters that blew up the Presidential Palace in 1973 when Allende was killed. Papers concerning the role in Chilean arms supply of the Governments of Wilson, Heath and Callaghan, and the role of Healey as Defence Secretary, are disgracefully locked away until the 2030s. Everyone knows however, how Pinochet assisted Thatcher over the Falklands. But they may not know how she repaid him by selling him more arms and fighter aircraft for £1 each!

This film is a strong reminder of what has been lost by the decades -long onslaught against UK Trade Unions, but as a counterpoint to that tragedy, it speaks of how each one ofus, collectively or as individuals, can make a difference to the lives of others, by taking actions and doing the right thing today, even if we will never fully discover what good we may do.

Brilliant. See it. Nae Pasaran.

You can watch the entire film on BBC iPlayer until 24th March, link here. (UK only)