Dispatches from Cannes: Salvador Allende's Widow Speaks in New Documentary

Dispatches from Cannes: Salvador Allende's Widow Speaks in New Documentary
Beyond My Grandfather Allende preserves a historical family past —

Hortensia Allende lost a husband and a daughter to suicide. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile from 1970-73, shot himself just before his palace was captured by the military in the coup that would blight the human rights of the county until 1990. Beatriz Allende killed herself in Cuba. She was in exile, just like the rest of her family. These dramatic and tragic events form the centre of Marcia Tambutti Allende’s debut, Beyond My Grandfather Allende. Marcia’s conversational process of drawing out memories from her stoical family poses the question: is it kinder to let people stay silent on their traumas or is it better in the long run for them to tell their stories?

Hortensia – affectionately referred to as ‘Tencha’ – has a face that is as beautiful as it is sorrowful. “When will this very long interview end?” she asks as the film opens. She is 92 and lives a quiet life in the present. As Marcia determinedly pushes to hear recollections other family members become defensive on her behalf .

“If she’s sealed off, it’s because she’s protecting herself. She’s had a hard life and she’s always needed to protect herself,” says Isabel – Chilean politician, mother to Marcia and daughter of Tencha. It turns out that there was hurt before there was a bloodshed as Salvador was a serial philanderer. All of this is buried. Maybe it should stay buried, is a thought that dawns as the camera captures a beautiful, sad old lady’s resistance to opening old wounds. And yet the very act of filming and recognising a woman that has lived in the shadow of a man, even after his death, is incredibly powerful. And the documentary canon of Chilean history is now richer for her inclusion.

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