Rebellion in Patagonia (1974)

26 Apr

110m; Argentina

Director: Héctor Olivera

Cast: Pedro AleandroHéctor Alterio and Luis Brandoni

Synopsis (New York Times): “Rebellion in Patagonia” covers a great deal of ground in the sweeping style of the muralist, opening with the assassination of an Army colonel in Buenos Aires in 1923 and then going back several years to describe the events leading up to that assassination.

Most of the action takes place on the broad plains of Patagonia, one of the most beautiful, most spooky landscapes on earth. It was there that a coalition of Communists and anarchists had successfully organized the workers on the sheep farms. When the landowners later refuse to honor their agreements, new strikes break out and the Army chief, once sympathetic to populist cause, sets out to break the movement in a campaign that’s estimated to have taken the lives of 3,000 workers.

The film is a collection of vignettes, richly detailed with the sort of character and incident that recall nostalgically but without sentimentality the sense of high purpose of early trade-unionism. The movie has a great fondness for these seminal labor fighters, including a young Spanish activist (Luis Brandoni) who is also a realist, and a fine old German idealist (Pepe Soriano) who puts his life on the line for his beliefs.

It’s not all black versus white, though. Mr. Olivera defines divisions within the ranks of both sides, sometimes tragically and often wittily, as in an early trade-union meeting when the success of a strike is celebrated by the Communists with a rousing anthem while their nonpoliticized Chilean compatriots look on aghast. They haven’t yet been taught that politics can be expressed in song.


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