UK Release Date: 2nd November 2018
Runtime: 96 minutes
Director: Felipe Bustos Sierra
Writer: Felipe Bustos Sierra
Starring: Bob Fulton, Stuart Barrie, John Keenan, Robert Somerville
Synopsis: In the wake of a military coup in Chile that overthrew the elected president, Scottish factory workers staged their own, surprisingly pivotal protest in solidarity with the Chilean people.
In 1973, the Chilean military carried out a violent coup d’état that led to the death of the democratically elected leader Salvador Allende after Hawker Hunter planes bombed the presidential palace. The junta, led by General Pinochet, that followed was supported by the US government and had enormous power. In the Scottish town of East Kilbride, however, there was a potent resistance effort. Those Hawker Hunter planes were engineered and repaired at the Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride, and the factory workers weren’t happy to be supporting the overthrow of democracy – even tangentially. The new documentary Nae Pasaran tells their incredible story.
Revolutionary leaders come in different shapes and sizes. In the case of Nae Pasaran, the revolutionary is a balding fella with grey hair and spectacles, called Bob. This isn’t an ordinary story and it’s one that director Felipe Bustos Sierra teases out with great skill, moving between Scotland and Chile to explore the extraordinary protest Bob Fulton and his friends carried out, as well as the effects that protest had more than 7,000 miles away.
It’s a story driven by emotion and righteousness. Bob Fulton and his comrades simply refused to carry out repair work on the Hawker Hunter engines, risking dismissal from their jobs in order to defend the rights of people they had never and probably would never meet. Four decades later, Sierra gets them all together at a working men’s club to discuss the impact of their actions and the legacy of what they did. The first half of the film is largely devoted to telling their story and exploring their act of solidarity. A brief, and very impressive, reconstruction of the palace air raid is one of the few diversions into overtly cinematic style and flair.
At the midpoint, Sierra pivots to a more Chilean focus, looking to delve into the coup itself and the ways in which the Scottish workers frustrated its progress. An Air Force commander refuses to take responsibility for what happened in his first ever on-camera interview, while the coup is described by others as “a transgression of human rationality”. The common point raised in the Chilean interviews is relief from people that their struggles were being heard, even if it was on the other side of the world.
Nae Pasaran deals in rousing emotions and powerful declarations. There’s a potent magic to seeing rugged Scottish men reduced to tears when they see Chilean people expressing pure gratitude for an action that they themselves thought was a minor one at the time. The strokes are perhaps a little broad, but this is a story that needs to be told – and this is a great way of telling it.
Pop or Poop?
Sometimes a truly great story is all it takes to make a documentary fly, and that’s certainly the case with Nae Pasaran. Felipe Bustos Sierra doesn’t do a great deal in the director’s chair other than sit back and let his magnetic leading men tell their story with humility, modesty and just the right amount of pride.
This is a rare story of people on the ground being able to make a real difference to a potent political issue, and it’s one told with real joy in its heart. The Chilean mantra from which the film gets its name means “they shall not pass”, and you certainly shouldn’t pass on this story.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.