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Special Circumstances

Distributed by New Day Films, 190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
Produced by Marianne Teleki
Directed by Marianne Teleki
DVD, color, 56 and 73 minute versions
Sr. High - Adult
Criminal Justice, Ethics, Human Rights, Latin American Studies, Law, Political Science, Sociology

Reviewed by Douglas Reed, Department of Political Science, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, AR

Date Entered: 11/12/2008

Special Circumstances is an inspiring cathartic journey that puts Hector Salgado face-to-face with the men who tortured him and forced him into exile some 30 years before when he was only 16.

Much has been written about the Pinochet regime, but this documentary puts a human face on the initial phases of Chile’s military coup. One of the most effective visual devices throughout the film is tiles bearing the likeness of victims and military personnel. After each interview or attempted interview, the tiles are moved and juxtaposed in a new way. This puzzle imagery symbolizes Salgado’s quest for answers when he returns to Chile after decades in exile. Why were two of his friends killed by firing squads? Who was responsible for the actions of the military and its supporters in his home village of Tome? Salgado works tirelessly to break the silence of those who committed these atrocities.

Salgado invests a great deal of time and effort uncovering the identities and locations of those who led the military in Tome. His attempts to question these individuals, however, is often rebuffed or ignored. In an effort to uncover the truth, Salgado uses tactics some viewers may consider unethical—using hidden microphones and misrepresenting himself as a resident of an apartment complex to obtain access to a former military officer. One could argue that he had no choice amid the persistent stonewalling of those involved in the “special circumstances” of the military overthrow of President Salvador Allende.

Special Circumstances earned top awards at the following:

  • Berkeley Video and Film Festival
  • Digital Film Festival, Vina del Mar, Chile
  • Festival Internacional de Cine Digital, Viña del Mar, Chile
  • International Documentary Film Festival (FIDOCS), Santiago, Chile
  • International Latino Film Festival - San Francisco Bay Area

Recommended for academic libraries, Special Circumstances is an excellent resource for those interested in human rights and Latin American studies.