“I saw my own writing when I was investigating these cases,” says Judge Juan Guzmán, “Now, 30 years later, some of my witnesses filed those petitions.” He’s talking about the “more than 10,000 habeas corpus petitions” rejected during Augustus Pinochet’s regime, petitions filed in search of answers, or at least some rudimentary legal assistance, in learning the fates of over 3,000 Chilean citizens who had disappeared. Three decades later, Guzmán is appointed to investigate Pinochet, to bring to light the system of imprisonment, torture, and execution that was for so hidden. “It’s a denial of justice of the judiciary didn’t do anything, ” he says of the petitions he and other judges signed. Guzmán‘s sense of tragedy and culpability is laced through Patricio Lanfranco and Elizabeth Farnsworth’s moving documentary, The Judge and the General. Cutting between then and now, the film makes clear how hard Guzmán works to dig up the past, and also how hard people three decades ago had to work to deny what Pinochet was doing. As an object lesson concerning the abuse and expansion of government powers and secrecy, the film is uncomfortably germane for many viewers today, including viewers in the U.S. As focused as they may be on the difficulties and details of their daily lives, all citizens are ultimately responsible.
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