Review: Nae Pasaran

Published

Credit: Scottish Documentary Institute

Aurora Piergiacomi
Writer

Exploring the political links between East Kilbride workers and Pinochet’s Chile

“Sometimes the butterfly flaps its wings and there’s a storm at the other side of the world.”

East Kilbride, 1974: a group of Rolls Royce engineers decide to act in solidarity with Chilean people oppressed by the military junta and refuse to carry out vital inspections to the jet engines used by the regime. Forty years later, Bustos Sierra investigates the impact of this boycott.

Nae Pasaran is a tale of courage and solidarity, an investigative yet powerfully emotional documentary in which writer, director and producer Felipe Bustos Sierra successfully explores the course of events that unexpectedly linked Scotland to Pinochet’s Chile. The title smartly blends Scots and “No pasarán” (‘they shall not pass’) – a resistance motto used against many fascist regimes – and anticipates what this documentary is about: an often forgotten yet deeply important bridge that links Scottish and Chilean histories.

The documentary integrates original footage from Pinochet’s Chile to describe the cruelty and human right abuses of the military junta. We are also presented with the stories of Chilean survivors who suffered abuses and torture at the hands of the regime, as well as interviews with ex-members of the Chilean army. However this story also leaves room for hope: Scottish workers Bob, Robert, John and Stuart with their contagious passion and enthusiasm, narrate how their boycott started in 1974 and what consequences this had for them in Scotland.

However, only after four decades they finally find out the real impact that their solidarity action had on Chilean history. There is a link, something that connects Scotland with democratic Chile: was this boycott one of the founding bricks on which contemporary democratic Chile was founded?

Nae Paseran is undoubtedly a personal project for Felipe Bustos Sierra, who is the son of a Chilean exile currently living in Scotland, and he did a painstaking work in investigating the story behind the Scottish boycott. In this documentary, his commitment to narrating the events with a clear and informed outlook is evident and he does so by walking the viewer through the story while alternating between interviews taken both in Scotland and in Chile. It makes for an insightful watch on the atrocities of dictatorship and the importance of solidarity action, investigating modern history and issues of democracy. Despite the rigorous investigation of the historical events, Nae Pasaran is also a powerfully emotional documentary. The soundtrack by Patrick Neil Doyle excellently contributes to the narration of the events adding emotional power to the storyline particularly in the closing scenes.

Another important choice made by the director is the tone used throughout the movie that adds simplicity and humanity to the story: “That’s bloody nonsense!!” says 90-year old Bob, with his strongly Glaswegian accent, before bursting into a contagious laugh. Bob, Robert, John and Stuart are humble, smart and funny, and it is very easy for the viewer to empathise with them. It is precisely their humanity that leads them to start their boycott: the Scottish workers wanted to condemn the overthrow of a democratically elected government as an act of solidarity towards their Chilean fellows. If they were born in Chile, they reflect during the movie, they would have been the ones being tortured or killed by the regime. Eventually, the Rolls Royce workers demonstrated to the military and the civil society what power international workers solidarity can have.