In 1973, the President of Chile was under increasing pressure. Salvador Allende had been voted into office as the most left-wing leader the South American nation had ever seen, on a ticket that promised national health care, nationalising the industries in favour of their citizens, and other socialist policies designed to unite the ordinary people by improving their quality of life significantly. It couldn't last. In November, the Chilean military staged a coup backed by business and political interests on the right, including pressure and supplies from the C.I.A. and United States Government that in unprecedented scenes saw Chile have its Parliament bombed by its own Air Force...
There's possibly no chance of the shame of the Chilean coup and subsequent state of terror being forgotten any time soon given how often it has been examined in its own media and film, not to mention those of other countries who can regard it as a warning from history that a modern land could fall victim to fascism with disturbing ease. But director Felipe Bustos Sierra had a new angle for this documentary, a co-production between Chile and Scotland: that was significant because the tale it told was also a strong link between the nations, though not perhaps thanks to their ruling leaders back in the nineteen-seventies, more a solidarity between their common people.
But before you started thinking this was going to be ninety minutes of "workers of the world unite!" polemic, you should be aware that what was being protested about in Scotland is something anyone with even a shred of decency would have opposed: the mass murder and torture of those in Chile who were regarded as enemies of the fascist state. They did not have to be political activists, either, anyone treated as a problem to the totalitarians was rounded up and executed, their corpses dumped en masse in the street or the rivers, whether they had any strong political stance or not; it was the classic "if you're not with us, you're against us" tenet of every extremist political movement.
Those who were assuredly not with General Augusto Pinochet's government were the workers in Rolls Royce's plant in East Kilbride, who had their own method of protest when the engine for the Hawker fighter jets arrived from Chile to be maintained and repaired, then shipped back. It was well known by that point the jets were the ones used to bomb Allende's authorities into oblivion, and the union at the plant were not about to help them out, therefore made a decision to refuse to work on them, in the parlance of the factory "blacking" the engines, that was, labelling them as on a blacklist not to be touched. So the machinery sat there for what eventually became years, the Scots workers stubbornly refusing to have anything to do with them and hoping in some small way this would assist the freedom fighters in Chile.
There was more to the story than that, as you can imagine, and if Sierra did not display too much flair in the presentation, with computer animation jarring against the copious news footage he managed to assemble (this used the BBC Scotland library, though other sources such as LWT made appearances). Yet that was not too much of an issue when the story he was telling was put across with clarity, an eventually moving story of how the men who took a stand thousands of miles away made more of a difference than they realised back in the seventies, the mere act of making their support plain a boost to the Chileans under the jackboot of oppression. Not to mention that in a political landscape in the twenty-first century that sought to break people apart by emphasising differences both real and imagined to boost power over us, something occurring across the globe, Nae Pasaran! was an invaluable reminder that sticking together through thick and thin was far more beneficial, be that in one country or between two, or more, since division makes the world weaker and less responsible. Music by Patrick Neil Doyle.