The title of Nanni Moretti’s documentary is deliberately unplaceable, evoking a world displaced. After Salvador Allende became the first ever Marxist socialist to be elected in a liberal democracy, the infamous American-supported Pinochet coup removed many of his social initiatives and instigated a regime of terror. Thus, the Italian embassy in Santiago became a safe haven for journalists, academics, artists, and writers on their way to a new life in Italy. There, they share their memories of the time through this expertly-crafted testimonial documentary.

The talking heads of Santiago, Italia vary from journalists covering the coup in real time and historians providing their analysis, to those who were children when the presidential palace was bombed. This combination of perspectives drives home the cataclysmic nature of this era: no life was untouched.  The documentary does not shy away from torture – both the physical depiction in documentary footage and the interviewees’ examination of the psychological wounds inflicted by the possibility of disappearance.

One of the most striking scenes sees a woman laughing while recollecting her outrage that her captors had ripped out her eyelashes with the bondage tape: she had wished to die with them intact. The moment’s juxtaposition of vanity and mortality feels too strange to be false. Occasionally the interviewer will interject, gently probing a subject for an elaboration, and the camera never hurries the interviewees through their testimony. Instead, it stays with them as long as necessary to let them say all they need to in their own time and words.

With the worldwide rise of the right wing in the 21st century, Santiago, Italia remains a timely reminder of oppression’s human toll and the little resistances and allegiances that keep people alive. Chile’s fascist history may be behind it, but the hard choices and courage feel contemporary.  



CAST: Salvador Allende, Carmen Castillo, Patricio Guzmán, Miguel Littin

DIRECTOR: Nanni Moretti

WRITER: Nanni Moretti

SYNOPSIS: This testimonial documentary tells the story of the activists and artists who found sanctuary in Santiago’s Italian embassy during the Pinochet years.