Dorfman’s odyssey

Ariel Dorfman returns to the presidential palace

(Canscene) — Peter Raymont, whose Shake Hands With the Devil shocked and stunned us at TIFF three years ago, documenting General Romeo Dallaire’s return to the scene of the Rwanda genocide, has recorded another journey which again reminds of how man’s inhumanity to man can leave scars on a person’s psyche.

Author /playwright Ariel Dorfman won international fame with his play and film Death and the Maiden, questioning the depth of retribution that should be exacted from a war criminal.

In Raymont’s new film A Promise to the Dead– the Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman, the question is pursued further.

The Argentine-born writer who moved to Chile became an ardent supporter of, and cultural advisor to the democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende.

On-screen narration by Dorfman is interspersed with newsreel shots of the coup which killed Allende and won Chile for the cold-blooded General Pinochet; they illustrate the fate that awaited Dorfman had he not been fortunate enough to escape to Argentina and eventually to the United States where he now teaches at Durham University in North Carolina.

The film records Dorfman’s return to Chile and his reunion with two friends from the Allende days, They campaign to have the now-disgraced Pinochet tried as a war criminal, only to see the one-time dictator die of a heart attack before the tardy Chilean government takes meaningful action. Dorfman emphasizes that he was motivated not so much out of a desire for revenge as to see Chile stand up for human rights.

The film also reminds us of the roles Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and the CIA played in labelling Allende a communist to the encouragement of the backers of Pinochet and his subsequent regime of mass executions and unaccountable disappearances. A Promise to the Dead is a moving addition to films on the championship of human values against the support of bloody dictatorships.

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