Expanding upon director Felipe Bustos Sierra’s short film, NAE PASARAN delivers the story of how a group of East Kilbride factory workers put a spanner in the works of Augusto Pinochet. A small act of resistance, started as a simple act of defiant solidarity, is shown to have long-reaching influence. NAE PASARAN is constructed to highlight a timeless message through this historical act, in the manner of some of the best documentaries.
Bustos Sierra (based in Edinburgh, whose father was an exiled Chilean journalist) has two main strands in the film, always referring to the influence of one upon the other: the brutal overthrowing of Salvador Allende by General Augusto Pinochet, and the actions of workers at Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride, which receives engines for repair belonging to Pinochet’s airforce. The workers refuse to repair the engines, leaving them to rust in the West of Scotland.
The airforce is a key component of Pinochet’s arsenal (for instance, to bomb the presidential palace), and interviews with Chilean activists of the time highlight what impact the workers’ refusal to work on the engines had back in South America. These segments are shown to the workers, who maybe did not fully realise how much impact their actions actually had.
These two strands never quite fully embrace each other, but this emphasises the political story Bustos Sierra seems to be communicating: that the apathetic retort to most progressive solidaristic action – “What difference does it make?” – is as empty and cynical as it sounds. From a superficial standpoint, there is no reason to believe something happening in East Kilbride should affect a brutal militaristic dictatorship in South America. Yet, it can and did.
The film is given an excellent cinematic sheen in its opening stages, the use of music elevating the imagery. Use of CGI for dramatic reconstructions of the various intrigues at the Rolls-Royce factory (the engines are snatched mysteriously many years later) could be slicker, but is effective for the role it plays in mixing up the visuals a bit.
The history of Chile at the time is delivered very clearly, without being patronising to the viewer. Use of archive footage and interviews explains the brutality and desperation of the situation effectively, contrasting with the interviews of the Scots, whom we are introduced to in the local pub. These scenes are excellent for both the individual men involved, but also an illustration of some of the best aspects of Scottish national character. Bob Fulton, in particular, carries himself with a jovial dignity that any politically aware person should aspire to. An espousal of their reasoning is inspiring for its simplicity.
Bustos Sierra brings the film full circle, with a narrative framing around the final resting place of the contentious engines. In doing so, he illustrates the impact simple acts of solidarity can have, and the longevity they can possess. In a world that is much smaller than it was in the 1970s – and often feels like it has regressed in many ways – it is an inspiring message that should be heeded by progressives everywhere. You must act. Resist. No Pasaran.