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La Cueca Sola

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Marilú Mallet and Yves Bisaillon; Les Films De L'Atalante in co-production with The National Film Board of Canada
Directed by Marilú Mallet
VHS, color and b&, 52 min.
College - Adult
Women's Studies, Latin American Studies, South American Studies, Human Rights, Political Science

Reviewed by Cindy Badilla-Melendez, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

Date Entered: 6/9/2004

In 1973, Chile suffered a military coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power for over 17 years. The Cueca Sola is a traditional dance born of the wives of political prisoners and families of the missing people as symbolic gestures of resistance to Pinochet’s dictatorship. The word sola means alone; the women dance alone.

Chilean born director, Marilú Mallet returns, to Chile after 30 years in exile to meet with five women who suffered the loss of a family member or a friend during the dictatorship. They speak out their experiences. Mallet reveals the painful stories of these women during this period where thousands of men and women were arrested, tortured and disappeared.

The film goes back and forth presenting the same five women in different scenarios. There is no narrator or interviewer, as they talk about their experiences. Moyenie Valdes shares why and how her father was murdered by the military. With her songs she tries to speak out about the state of terrorism that lasted for 17 years. Her songs are inspired by the terrible times during the dictatorship and they encourage people to embrace a new and better country.

Monique Hermosilla, a Belgium and Chilean retired teacher, was detained by the military because she was helping a friend enter the Italian embassy. She was held prisoner and was tortured and raped. She describes the horrific method used in the Torture Chamber where she was stripped and they placed electric wiring inside her vagina and other places.

Carolina Tohá, member of the current Government of Chile, wants to reform the health program, support education and encourage the free commerce. She wants human rights to be the center of Chilean culture. Her father was one of Allende’s ministers and was killed by the military. She mentioned that women and young people were the first ones to generate an understanding of the opposition.

Isabel Allende, daughter of ex-president Allende, is president of the Chamber of Deputies. She returned to Chile from exile in 1988. She talks about the pressure placed upon her family as a result of the USA intervention by the CIA, thus ousting her father from the presidency. She mentions that women worked hard and played an important role in recovering the democracy and getting the dialogue back, a dialogue that wasn’t even possible among men.

Estela Ortiz lived through her husband being detained and decapitated in the same day. Her father Fernando Ortiz Letelier, a member of the communist party, was killed as well. She goes on to say “The terrorism of state killed all the men she loved in her life.” That did not stop women in continuing to organize and fight back

This documentary uses very good archival footage and stills of several events. The picture and sound quality is good. It is in Spanish and some French with English subtitles. It would be most suitable for academic departments of Latin American studies and women studies. Compared to other excellent titles such as Mexico: Rebellion of the Weeping Women, the film La Cueca Sola lacks depth. However this film is recommended because it focuses on the strength of women fighting for their loved ones and human rights as well as their participation rebuilding a democracy. The music used was not the best. Chile has an extraordinary selection of musicians who also wrote songs related to this period of time that would be more suitable.