The Chilean Building: Film Review

Intriguing, from-the-inside account of an unusual slice of history could use a bit of outsider perspective

Director's debut film was almost a decade in the making.

An unusual (and evidently unexposed) piece of South American history is told in The Chilean Building, an account of how idealistic Chilean revolutionaries sacrificed to keep their children safe during the country's Pinochet-era tumult. Macarena Aguiló's privileged perspective -- she was one of the kids sent far from her endangered parents -- is both a strength and a weakness here, but even with its limited scope the film will appeal to serious-minded viewers interested in Leftist struggles.

Aguiló, we see at the film's start, was kidnapped by Pinochet's forces as part of their attempt to quash Chile's Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), a party to which her parents were devoted. After her release, Aguiló's mother took her overseas, eventually leaving her at "Project Home" -- an experiment in communal childrearing where 20 MIR adult members were assigned to raise scores of their comrades' offspring as their own.

Aguiló's storytelling will be a bit too muddy for those not versed in Chilean history (perhaps even for those who are) but her method -- wandering through her own memories of that time, and those of her foster siblings and parents -- does afford an emotional angle an outsider couldn't offer. Despite missing their parents, most of the kids clearly have happy memories of this makeshift family; footage from the time depict what looks like one long, friendly sleepaway camp.

The project remained intact when it moved to politically receptive Cuba, but only for a while -- we hear, somewhat obliquely, of a crumbling decision-making process and strained family bonds. Rudimentary but evocative animation by one of Aguiló's adoptive brothers sums up this falling-apart nicely.

The doc's most poignant moments come late, as parents -- both those who entrusted their biological children to others, and those who took them in -- speak of the hard decisions they made and their (largely foreseeable) consequences.

Production Company: Producciones Aplaplac

Director: Macarena Aguiló

Screenwriters: Macarena Aguiló, Susana Foxley

Producers: Juan Manuel Egaña, Macarena Aguiló

Director of photography: Arnaldo Rodriguez

Music: Elisabeth Morris

Editors: Catherine Mabilat, Macarena Aguiló, Ilaán Stehberg, Ismael Miranda, Galut Alarcón

No rating, 95 minutes