Chilean Play Dramatizes Remaining Traces of Pinochet Dictatorship

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  • Undated photo provided by Teatro a Mil Foundation on March 24, 2017, showing the actors performing during the play "Mateluna."
    Undated photo provided by Teatro a Mil Foundation on March 24, 2017, showing the actors performing during the play “Mateluna.” | Photo: EFE/Teatro a Mil Foundation/Felipe Fredes
The director grew up during the Pinochet dictatorship and said he feels part of the social and political movements of the time.

A Chilean playwright presents in his work “Mateluna” evidence of an unjust trial that sent one of his colleagues to jail, and also dramatizes the remaining traces of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

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Playwright Guillermo Calderon told EFE in an interview in Sao Paulo that he wrote this play “to review the case and try to find justice for Jorge.”

Jorge Mateluna, a former guerrilla of the Marxist-Leninist Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front that fought against the 1973-1990 Pinochet regime, helped document Calderon’s 2013 play “Escuela” with his own true story.

Six months after its premiere, with the play still on the marquee, Mateluna was arrested for taking part in a bank robbery, a crime that had nothing to do with the sentence of over 10 years he had previously served for belonging to the guerrilla front.

“It’s an investigation through documentary theater. We find in the investigation a pair of clues and that’s what we use onstage, but there are really 100 different items of proof that Jorge had nothing to do with it,” said Calderon.

Shown onstage are shots of the trial and videos that show the corruption of the Chilean police and justice system in a case that remains closed.

“The idea is that there should be a political movement to reopen the case,” the director said.

“Mateluna” was presented at Berlin’s HAU Hebbel an Ufer theater complex last October, and this week formed part of the program at the Sao Paulo International Theater Festival, from where it traveled to other Brazilian cities before leaving for Mexico.

The work continues Calderon’s brand of “political” theater seen in other works like “Neva,” “Diciembre,” “Clase,” “Villa” and “Discurso,” which have been staged in more than 30 countries.

Calderon grew up during the Pinochet dictatorship and told EFE that he feels part of the social and political movements of the time, which, from his point of view, ended “when Chile began its transition to democracy.”

Nonetheless, “the dictatorship is a ghost that continues to haunt Chile,” he said.

To make his point, the playwright said that “in Chile. the constitution imposed by Pinochet is still in force” and “the neoliberal values” that regulate the economy to this day were introduced by the authoritarian regime.
“Despite decades of democracy, the country has been unable to unshackle itself from those impositions,” he said.

RELATED: Chile’s Pinochet Long Gone, but Torture Persists: Rights Expert

Years ago, Calderon moved to the United States as a refuge to “relax and write” stage plays, but since Donald Trump became president he has noted a difference.

“There is indignation, anger, pain, and a deep sadness I never felt in the US before…it reminds me of Chile during the dictatorship. The conditions are different, but the emotions are similar,” he said.

Calderon has dedicated his life to political reflection on stage and screen, because, he said, “when all institutions fail, the last thing that’s left is art.”

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