We were about an hour into our picnic at Bicentennial Park with friends Miguel Huerta, Macarena Rodriguez and their lively and delightful boys Martin and Domingo when talk turned to the events leading up to the fortieth anniversary of the Pinochet coup.
You never knew when something could happen to you, Miguel said.
That fear, he said, led many Chileans to turn away from what they knew and to not involve themselves in what happened to others.
Friend and author Michael Patrick MacDonald described that same feeling of suffocation in his review of Martin Scorcese’s The Departed. As he sat in the theater, he wrote that he experienced ”the same suffocation that I felt as a kid growing up in a blood-soaked neighborhood, controlled by lies, deceit, and betrayal emanating as much from the halls of power as from Whitey Bulger.
“Watching`The Departed,’ my mind’s eye still focused on the exit sign, I relived the panic attacks of my youth, in the aftermath of my brothers ‘ deaths, at a time when we all knew that no one was allowed to talk. We all had to suck it up and move on.”
MacDonald’s solution was to cross the Broadway Bridge, get out of Southie and head to Kenmore Square, where a punk scene pulsing with anger, noise and rebellion was raging. (Indeed, MacDonald’s second book, Easter Rising: An Irish-American Coming Up From Under chronicles how he used music to get through the pain he suffered from murdered and disabled siblings and growing up in a neighborhood where hundreds of young people were killed, but residents kept asserting that such violence only occurred in black neighborhoods and that Southie was the best place in the world.)
Thousands of miles away, in the waning days of the Pinochet regime, a similar scene sprung up.
Fiskales Ad-Hok was at the center of it.
Malditos la Historia de los Fiskales Ad-Hok, Pablo Insunza’s documentary film, tells the story of the band’s early years, its gradual rise to prominence and its place in Chilean musical history.
Dunreith and I attended a screening of the film tonight at Parque Bustamante during the final installment of documentaries played at Parque Bustamante as part of Providencia’s commemoration of The Week of Memory here in Chile.
Formed in response to the dictatorship, Fiskales drew its name by tweaking the title of military prosecutor, or fiscal ad hoc-a position that was filled at the time by General Fernando Torres Silva.
The band’s earlobe-shattering, headbanging, mosh-pit inducing music also reflected its staunch opposition to the regime. Vulgar and profane, the group’s songs take direct aim at the police and the violence in Santiago, among other topics.
More basically, though, Fiskales’ very presence was a direct confrontation to the imposed order and that was a defining characteristic of the country under Pinochet, who is shown calling for those promulgating disorder to be dealt with a “mano dura”, or hard hand.
Malditos takes the viewer through the ban and the country’s development in the 90s. The group opened for punk legends The Ramones in Santiago in 1992-a gig that boosted their profile-and went on to record a series of albums and eventually tour in Europe.
Even though they journeyed away from home, they always returned and kept commenting on the change, or lack thereof, in the country.
After the exuberance invoked in the country by the triumph of the “No” vote in the 1988 plebiscite, Chileans found that Pinochet’s continuing to head the military and serve as as Senator for Life meant that the words and promise of democracy had not been kept.
We had been lied to, one of the band members declares, looking straight at the camera.
The anger from that betrayal fueled the band’s offerings, even as at times their sound mellowed from the late 80s frenzy.
Insunza is clearly a fan of Fiskales, and, as such, the tributes to the band from young fans to people associated with them from the beginning at moments verge close to promotional material, rather than a serious assessment of the band’s contribution to Chilean musical history. (To be fair, I have to confess that it has been difficult to watch any music documentary with a completely serious attitude since first seeing Rob Reiner’s classic rockumentary, Spinal Tap, in 1983.)
Drinking beers and laughing giddily as they pose against a wall, the 2004 vintage Fiskales members certainly have lived hard and have more than their share of the proverbial tread on the tire.
In the end, though, Insunza’s attitude toward the band and the abuse they have visited on their bodies matter much less than the fact that the band formed at the time that it did, and, having come together, it ripped apart the silence that Pinochet and his minions sought to impose and that Miguel described in our afternoon picnic-the same silence that Whitey Bulger and Boston’s powerful enforced in the South Boston of Michael MacDonald’s childhood a decade earlier and thousands of miles away.