Special advance screening THE JUDGE AND THE GENERAL 2008, Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco, USA, 84 min.
In 1998, relatives of “disappeared” victims brought suit against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (who had granted himself immunity). The case fell by lot to Judge Juan Guzmán, a conservative and Pinochet supporter. In Chile, judges also investigate the cases they try, and what Guzmán uncovered (in his words) “opened the eyes of my soul,” culminating in a dogged effort to bring the elusive general to justice. A potent combination of detective story and political history, THE JUDGE AND THE GENERAL raises issues of torture, rendition, and unbridled executive power that are all too relevant in America today.
For additional information, see: West Wind Productions. Discussion to follow moderated by Jim Lehrer, with Producer/Director Elizabeth Farnsworth and Judge Juan Guzmán
About the film: When in 1998 Chilean judge Juan Guzmán was assigned the first criminal cases against the country’s ex-dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, no one expected much.
Guzmán had supported Pinochet’s 1973 coup — waged as an anti-Communist crusade — that left the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, and thousands of others dead or “disappeared.” The filmmakers trace the judge’s descent into what he calls “the abyss,” where he uncovers the past — including his own role in the tragedy. “The Judge and the General” reveals one of the 20th century’s most notorious episodes and tells a cautionary tale about violating human rights in the name of “higher ideals.”
In 2005, Guzmán received the prestigious Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award in Washington, DC. For more than 30 years, the Institute for Policy Studies has hosted this awards program in the names of two colleagues, Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who were assassinated by agents of Pinochet in 1976. (Save the date for this year’s Letelier-Moffitt awards program:.)
— Phil Bronstein, editor at large of the San Francisco Chronicle“It’s disturbing to see how many citizens remain pro-Pinochet hardliners. Their purple-faced
fury over diminished power lends this nonfiction chronicle a sharp villainous
element even beyond the Pinochet regime itself.”
— Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Even those with only the slightest interest in Chilean politics will find themselves caught up in the story of judge Juan Guzman and his search for the truth behind the accusations of human-rights violations leveled against former leader The Onion.” –
“Who could imagine a scenario more compelling than The Judge and the General?
– Gregg Rickman, SF Weekly
About the filmmakers:
Elizabeth Farnsworth, Producer/Director
Elizabeth Farnsworth was chief correspondent and principal
substitute anchor on PBS’s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer from 1995-2000. She then became a senior correspondent, reporting mostly from overseas. She now freelances for The NewsHour and makes documentaries. Patricio Lanfranco, Producer/Director Patricio Lanfranco, a Chilean citizen living in Santiago, has been a researcher and producer for two decades. As senior producer of the news department of Chilean National TV (TVN), he produced the live television coverage of the 1995 trial of Manuel Contreras, former chief of Pinochet’s secret police, for the 1976 Washington, D.C. murder of Orlando Letelier. Letelier worked at the Institute for Policy Studies at the time of his assassination. Because of the broadcast, Chileans were able for the first time to watch attorneys present evidence in an official setting of human rights crimes committed by the secret police.
The Judge and the General airs nationally on the PBS series P.O.V.. Check your local listings for the PBS station in your city.