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One's own truth as protection

Adriana's Pact
Regissør: Lissette Orozco

11. September was also the day in 1973 when Chilean President Salvador Allende was overthrown, and Augusto Pinochet started his brutal dictatorial regime in the country.


Like any regime, Pinochet could not do everything on his own, and many Chileans assisted him in putting his plans into action. One of them was Manuel Contreras, the commander of Pinochet's secret police, the notorious DINA (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional). Contreras had a private secretary named Adriana Rivas, who also happened to be the favorite instant of documentary filmmaker Lisette Orozco. Orozco had just started film school when his aunt was arrested and charged with kidnapping, torture and murder. So what else was there to do other than make a movie?

Orozco cherishes a complicated story full of lies, half-truths and silence.

Adriana and Pinochet. The film begins with our introduction to Orozco's very matriarchal family through the filmmaker's voice-over, private filming and photographs. Particular attention is paid to the ambitious, outgoing and independent Aunt Adriana. Now she works for the Air Force and lives in Australia, and occasionally visits Chile. Until the day she is arrested. From this point on, Orozco begins to unravel a complicated story full of lies, half-truths and silence. On the one hand, Orozco's investigation rests on archival material from the Pinochet era, newspaper articles as well as eyewitness and expert opinions; on the other, it consists of interviews and testimonials from Adriana herself. Through compilations and reflections, Orozco tries to find out what happened and whether her aunt is guilty or not.

In an early interview, Adriana elaborates on her life during Pinochet. Adriana beams as she glorifies this part of her youth, and tells of how she moved in the highest circles of Chilean society. It was the next time in her life, she often repeats in a video interview she later gave to Australian television. She also reiterates the claim that torture is necessary to obtain information, and since it is happening in many countries – what is the problem? The cut in this interview is a conversation with Orozco's mother and Rivas' older sister, who defends Adriana by emphasizing the family values ​​they were raised in and that Adriana never hurt her.

Adriana beams when telling of her life as part of the Chilean society during Pinochet.

A recognizable pattern. This type of argument is not new to people who know the statements of elites who have been associated with brutal regimes. I recently saw an interview with Lina Heydrich, the wife of one of the Nazi chiefs of the Holocaust, Richard Heydrich. She showed many of the same feelings that Adriana expresses. The issue of collective guilt also comes into the picture here. There are very similar patterns in the case of Nazi Germany and Pinochet's Chile. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen wrote a controversial book about the collective German contribution to the extermination of the Jews, Hitler's Willing Executioners. In Germany, what Goldhagen called "eliminationist anti-Semitism" played an important role – the type of anti-Semitism that considers complete extermination as the only solution. It is not very different from the way Pinochet and his colleagues viewed their political opponents and the solutions they sought, although on a completely different scale and with other methods. And given the support and enthusiasm during a celebration of Pinochet where the 30-year-old Orozco is present, there is still sympathy for such ideas in Chile.

The moment of truth. Oroszco's family has never discussed the current period. It adds Adriana's Pact Another layer of complexity: the secrecy pact the title refers to. Such a pact applies to the individual and collective agreement to remain silent about the past, as it is too cruel to discuss and pass on what happened. After the Franco regime, Spain got its oblivion pact; Chile created its own secrecy pact after Pinochet.

Adriana leaves when she is released on bail in Chile and returns to Australia, where she films herself. Adriana continues to deny that she has seen torture performed and that she has ever said something wrong, but Orozco finds more and more telling the opposite. From Adrian's position in the Pinochet regime and the fact that it was widely known that torture was used in prisons, she must have known about and even been part of the crimes. The testimonies pile up in both Chile and Australia, where exile Chileans demand that Adriana be extradited. Chileans publicly condemn her, even gathering for protests outside her home.

Orozco keeps in touch with her aunt on Skype, and is slowly drawn into her aunt's defense when she asks Orozco to contact former colleagues who should be able to confirm that she is innocent. By holding a cell phone close to his laptop, Orozco gives Adriana the opportunity to talk to her former colleague, the acclaimed Gladys Calderon. But she claims she remembers nothing. The more Adriana tries to convince her niece that she is innocent, the more guilty she seems. "Why escape from the justice system if you are convinced of your innocence?" wonders Orozco. Finally, Adriana pulls the "blood ribbon card" across from Orozco.

Orozco's search for answers in Adriana's Pact is a reflected exploration of how truth is constructed – that is, Adrian's truth. This truth, it is explained, serves as a mental protection against other people's truths. It ends with the film succeeding in shedding a light on Adrian's sake.


Willemien W. Sanders
Willemien W. Sanders
Sanders is a critic, living in Rotterdam.

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