The latest—and best, so far—of Netflix‘s music-centric documentary series, ReMastered: Massacre at the Stadium examines the grisly 1973 death of Chilean folk singer-turned-martyr Victor Jara, as well as the complex circumstances that emerged from the despotic Pinochet regime. Concurrently, the film skillfully reveals the curious and infuriatingly predictable account of Pedro Barrientos Núñez, a former Chilean army official and possible murderer of Jara.
DIRECTOR: Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
The latest ‘ReMastered’ compellingly examines the grisly 1973 death of Chilean folk singer-turned-martyr Victor Jara.
As much a humanist totem for change as a performer and writer, Jara represented a crucial function within the Socialist movement, existing at the vanguard of neo-folkloric musicians. The group established the Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement, which led to upheaval within popular music during the administration of President Salvador Allende.
Jara found himself trapped in the middle of a military coup on Sept. 11, 1973 led by General Augusto Pinochet, whose forces overthrew Allende. The “massacre at the stadium” refers to the herding of Pinochet’s suspected political enemies to Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos in Santiago, which the junta government used as a torture and detention center to hold roughly 40,000 people. Here, Jara was tortured and finally executed, his beaten body thrown out on the shantytown street in Santiago as a message.
Director Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt (Havana Motor Club, Invisible Killers) successfully tells the concurrent stories of Jara and Pedro Barrientos Núñez, who was found liable for Jara’s death by a Florida jury in 2016, but still lives free there now. Perlmutt, who’s heavy on the dramatics at certain points, also includes the conditions under which Jara’s death and Barrientos’ freedom were possible. With key interviews, he delves into the United States’ likely involvement in Pinochet’s ascendence, with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s Cold War paranoia leading them to help destabilize the socialist Allende Government.
Massacre at the Stadium also gathers eyewitness accounts of victims, as well as military personnel willing to speak about the events. The interviews add gravity to the psychological and emotional toll on all involved in the torture and murder of real and suspected Chilean leftists.
Some of the film’s strongest moments involve Jara’s widow, Joan, a 90-year-old British-Chilean woman. In present-day interviews and archival footage, she exhibits fortitude, poise, and grace in becoming an activist and carrying on Jara’s memory. Oddly, Barrientos—who, like many war crime offenders, lives free and clear—apparently wanted to take a lie detector test as a condition of his involvement in the documentary.
ReMastered: Massacre at the Stadium ranks as an overwhelming success. With its rich mix of politics, music, and Perlmutt’s effective peering into the human condition, it’s the series’ best offering by far.
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