Propaganda: Inside Chile's presidential campaign trail

Those present during Chile’s presidential race will undoubtedly remember the hordes of posters, billboards, graffiti and banners which emblazoned the streets of Santiago in support of various presidential candidates. In MAFI’s recent documentary Propaganda, footage from five of the presidential candidates – recently-elected President Michelle Bachelet, Evelyn Matthei, Franco Parisi, Marco Enriquez-Ominami and Roxana Miranda – offers an insightful and wry glimpse into the political spin and publicity which characterised Chile’s most recent presidential election.

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The documentary opens with a picturesque scene of Chile’s desert region. One of Michelle Bachelet’s campaign cars trundles through the landscape, blasting out her campaign tune and mantra Chile de Todos, demonstrating the persistence and inescapabilty of presidential campaigning. Another moment captures rural workers frying eggs beneath an enormous political billboard. A radio commentator observes how the campaigns of today feature increasing amounts of propaganda, yet conversely the end credits feature a sound bite from a radio station advertising their medium as the best and most audible way to get your message across.

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Propaganda provides humorous insight into the people behind the campaign caricatures, as Evelyn Matthei dances Chile’s national dance la cueca,and Marco Enriquez-Ominami is seen privately basking in his own campaign praise. Moreover, the documentary alludes to the sense of disillusionment within Chilean politics, as polling booths remain empty and high figures of abstention are reported. As the presidential campaign ends, placards are unceremoniously ripped down and dumped in waste heaps, or left flailing in the breeze, contributing to the sense that the politics is a mere facade for genuine change. A group of builders observe the need to be informed, and not just to vote because a candidate is blonde or handsome, yet a scene from a Michelle Bachelet look-a-like competition reveals some of the more obscure occurrences induced by the presidential campaign-mania.

Perhaps most of all, Propaganda reveals the distinctions between political class and the social frustrations that characterise Chile. An old man on the streets emphatically campaigns that if you are poor, you should vote for Bachelet, as she will help you. However a passer-by comments that Bachelet continued the system of Pinochet and failed to solve any problems. If Bachelet belongs to the corporate world, Roxana Miranda champions the people’s cause, yet she is ignored by TV hosts and is presented as somewhat of an outcast in comparison to her two blonde female competitors.

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Others label the anniversary of the military coup and actions of the military as a distraction from the issues facing Chileans today; the need for decent and fair pensions, and a more equal distribution of wealth. On the other hand, Chilean protestors are captured lining inner pavements, being sniffed and prodded by curious street dogs, in their affirmation that the atrocities of the past should not be repeated.

Propaganda offers a beautifully shot and subtle insight into the demands and contradictions of the presidential race. Astute, thought-provoking and amusing, it prompts viewers to reflect on the nature of Chilean politics and the complex demands of its disparate citizens.

Propaganda (Christopher Murray, Chile, 2014)

Playing now at:
Centre Arte Alameda,
Av.Libertador Bernado O’Higgins 139
Metro Baquedano

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