At 16, Hector Salgado was arrested and tortured by Pinochet's forces. By 20, Hector was without a country, living in exile in the US, the very place whose devastating foreign policies in Chile caused the death and torture of 1,000s of Chileans. The documentary follows Hector as he returns to Chile almost 30 years later, camera in hand, to confront the perpetrators and his former captors looking for answers and justice. In the process 'Special Circumstances' takes an unflinching look at US foreign policy in Latin America in the '70s and the legacy of Pinochet with which Chile struggles today.

"Marianne Teleki is a sensitive and talented filmmaker who has been able to record in Salgado's personal tragedy, the troubles of a country under a brutal dictatorship."

Isabel Allende, Author
Synopsis: 

Hector Salgado is one of 35,000 Chileans who were incarcerated and tortured by Pinochet's dictatorship. After many years of exile in the U.S. he decides to return to Chile with a camera to show the world the face of his perpetrators.

"A dozen cowardly military officers appear before us incapable of explaining or taking responsibility for their acts. This documentary, simple and direct, gives audiences around the world a lesson in political memory. I ask myself what would have happened if each one of us 35,000 political prisoners would have done the same as Hector. Surely we would have a much better democracy than the one we have today. Congratulations to the entire production team!"
Patricio Guzmán, Documentary Filmmaker 
The Battle of Chile, Case of Pinochet

Special Circumstances is an award winning documentary that has screened all over the US and Chile, where it won five awards for Best Documentary, and internationally at film festivals in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Havana, Ecuador, Brazil, Holland, Finland, Colombia, Italy, Spain. To date the film has been the recipient of 9 awards including Best Local Director in San Francisco, Best Editing in Brazil and the Audience Award in Holland.

Reviews

Hector Salgado is one of 35,000 Chileans who were incarcerated and tortured by Pinochet's dictatorship. After many years of exile in the U.S. he decides to return to Chile with a camera to show the world the face of his perpetrators. A dozen cowardly military officers appear before us incapable of explaining or taking responsibility for their acts. This documentary, simple and direct, gives audiences around the world a lesson in political memory. I ask myself what would have happened if each one of us 35,000 political prisoners would have done the same as Hector. Surely we would have a much better democracy than the one we have today. Congratulations to the entire production team!                                                                          

Hector Salgado es uno de los 35.000 chilenos que fueron encarcelados y torturados por la dictadura de Pinochet. Despues de muchos anos de exilio en los Estados Unidos decide volver a Chile con una camara para mostrar al mundo la cara de sus verdugos. Aparecen ante nosotros una docena de militares cobardes incapaces de explicarse y asumir sus actos. Esta sencilla pelicula documental, franca y directa, sin ornamentos de ninguna clase, entrega a los espectadores de todo el mundo una leccion de memoria politica. Me pregunto que hubiera pasado si cada uno de los 35.000 presos politicos hubieramos hecho lo mismo que Hector. Seguramente hubieramos tenido una democracia muchisimo mejor de la que tenemos hoy en dia. Felicitaciones para todo el equipo de realizacion!

Patricio Guzman, Filmmaker, LA BATALLA DE CHILE, EL CASO PINOCHET

Special Circumstances is a moving first-hand account of one victim's reencounter with Chile and his jailers and torturers. The film's immediacy, through family and friends' accounts and confrontations with old enemies, converts a national tragedy into a compelling personal history of family, childhood friends, death, and exile. With the beautiful background of rural Chile , an exile's return is transformed into a recapturing of a tragic past and a memorial to Chile's losses and survival. For classes: Special Circumstances will be especially valuable for students who have no memory of Chile's dictatorship. Its personal nature, juxtaposing past and present, brings home the personal costs of political conflict in ways that history lessons rarely do.

Gwen Kirkpatrick, Professor, Georgetown University

More than 30 years have elapsed since the violations of Human Rights narrated in 'Special Circumstances'. The truth about how these atrocities were committed is now reasonably known. This is perhaps the simplest aspect in the matter of Human Rights in Chile during the military dictatorship (1973-1990). The complementary issues of justice and reconciliation are much more difficult to discern. In the interest of political expediency in democracy, to pacify the country justice may be turned exclusively into an abstract juridical, bureaucratic matter, clean up the body of corrupted judges who supported the dictatorship, and apply international law of Human Rights as if maintaining human dignity were nothing more than a matter for the courts, and not a responsibility of each one of us. Reconciliation could be simply turned into a matter of governmental manipulation --deemphasizing the memory of the atrocities, suspending a national debate, and waiting until the generations involved are all dead and everything is forgotten. The value of 'Special Circumstances' against these abstractions and manipulations is to again show that the atrocities were committed in the most basic human level --against anonymous individuals, in the routines of their everyday life.

Hernan Vidal, Professor, University of Minnesota

CHILE'S MODERN HISTORY IS A STORY OF LISTS. In the 1970s and '80s, General Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship compiled lists of leftist sympathizers, union leaders, student activists, and other suspected comunistas. These lists, in turn, led to new ones of political prisoners, exiles, the missing, and the executed. After Pinochet stepped down in 1990, more lists were made, identifying some of the 3,000 Chileans who had been killed or disappeared under his 17-year rule. By 2004, Chile's National Commission on Political Prisoners and Torture had compiled the longest list yet, with the names of more than 35,000 people claiming to have been victims of torture. Then there is Hector Salgado's list. The names of the former military officers on his list are not well known. They live in pleasant neighborhoods and own nice houses and expensive cars. They have rounding bellies, retreating hairlines, and little reason to recall Salgado. But Salgado, who was arrested and tortured by the military more than three decades ago, has been unable to get these men out of his mind. For the past seven years, he has been gathering their names, addresses, and phone numbers. One by one, he plans to confront them all.

Nick Miroff, Mother Jones magazine

In the context of those who insist that it is best to forget the injustices of the past and to move forward, one much insist, equally and to the contrary, that such a response is an added way of silencing those who were originally silenced, often by death, madness, or fear, by the state terrorism of the neofascist movements in the 1970s and 1980s in the Latin American Southern Cone and Brazil. To go against the injunction of silence, to tell each and every one of the stories of those who were unconstitutionally imprisoned, tortured, murdered, and disappeared and those who were forced into exile is to challenge the hegemony of the Terrorist State and its abiding traces. The Terrorist State , which functioned under the duplicitous guise of 'special circumstances' must be shown, for each human story involved, to be, as H_x001A_ctor Salgado does with his story, a deah-dealing defiance of the social contract of civility, dignity, equality, and justice. Teleki's documentary is an eloquent and forceful answer to the profoundly erroneous injunction to silence in Chile and other Latin American socie ties affected by neofascist ideologies.

David William Foster, Professor, Arizona State University
Director's Commentary: 

The DVD contains both the 56 min and 73 min versions. Viewer can select English language version or Spanish language version. Closed Captions can be selected on 56 min. version.