Culture, Globe, Screen, United Kingdom

Going back to my roots

This documentary is personal and I hope it resonates with audiences, especially with those who, despite the dark times in which we are living, continue the fight for a better world.


Pablo Navarrete*


My parents were forced to leave Chile after a military coup on 11 September 1973. Both arrived in the UK as political refugees: my father in May 1975 and my mother in January 1976. After the coup they were imprisoned in the concentration camps and torture centres of US-backed fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet, who had led the bloody overthrow of socialist president Salvador Allende’s government. Like thousands of others, my parents paid a high price for supporting Allende and his government’s attempts to bring social justice and sovereignty to Chile.

While it was British-made Hawker Hunter jets that bombed Allende in La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace, on the morning of the coup, the Labour government of Harold Wilson, which had come to power in March 1974, welcomed and supported those fleeing the dictatorship. Allende’s Chilean road to socialism had caught the attention of the left in places such as the UK, and Chilean refugees and exiles felt the solidarity of some of the UK’s political class, the British trade union movement and others.

I was born in London in 1978. Growing up, I had conflicted feelings towards Chile and kept the country at arm’s length. Working as a journalist and documentary filmmaker since 2005, I’d never felt a strong desire to make a film about Chile, although I’d occasionally spoken and written about political developments there.

But in October 2019 things changed for me. An increase in underground fares in Chile’s capital, Santiago, sparked student protests that turned into a mass nationwide uprising against the then right-wing government of Sebastian Piñera. I covered the UK protests by the Chilean community and its allies for Telesur English, a pan-Latin American TV channel, and for independent media outlets such as Novara Media. I also spoke to Double Down News (and others) about the uprising, its links to the economic model forced on Chile by Pinochet’s US-trained economists and the brutal repression being unleashed on protestors by Piñera’s security forces.

While democracy had returned to Chile in 1990, the dictatorship’s economic system remained, making life a misery for many.

The uprising that began in October 2019 was like the explosion of a pressure cooker of grievances with the system.

I was seeing the country in a new light. A slogan for the uprising became: “Chile has awoken”. The protests gave me hope for Chile’s future. I felt a need to go there, to see what was happening, but also to finally confront my parents’ past.

I’m now close to completing “Mother, Country, the documentary that I first started filming in February 2020. More than four years since I started making the film, I have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help complete the documentary. I’ve visited Chile to film twice more since 2020 and we finished filming the documentary in the UK on 11th September 2023, the 50th anniversary of the military coup. The film will be released later this year.

The documentary explores some of my parents’ story in Chile before, and in the aftermath of the coup. It also covers the dramatic arrest of Pinochet in London in 1998.

The political backdrop for the documentary begins with the people’s uprising that began in late 2019 but also covers the election of former student leader Gabriel Boric to the presidency in March 2022.

The last filming in Chile took place in June 2023. This film is personal and unlike anything I’ve done before. I hope the documentary resonates with audiences, especially with those who, despite the dark times in which we are living, continue the fight for a better world.

You can support the crowdfunding campaign for “Mother, Country” here.

*Pablo Navarrete is a British-Chilean journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder and co-editor of Alborada, an independent voice on Latin American politics, media and culture. He is also runs Alborada Films, a social issue video production company. **Article originally published in Labour Hub / Substack.  

(Photos Mother, Country / Alborada Films)

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