In 1998, judge Juan Guzman, a longtime Pinochet supporter, was assigned to prosecute the ex-Chilean dictator for human rights crimes. This engrossing documentary follows the twists and turns of this landmark case, one that influenced the application of human rights law around the world.
As a young man, Juan Guzmán had served briefly as a clerk in the Court of Appeals during the worst years of repression under Pinochet. Judges of that court had to decide on thousands of habeas corpus petitions filed on behalf of victims, many of whom had disappeared into secret detention centers. Nearly all the petitions were denied, and Juan Guzmán wrote some of those denials. Had they been granted, many lives would have been saved.
In describing those days, Guzman chillingly tells the filmmakers of this documentary, “If I would have been a young lieutenant ordered to shoot people, I would have shot.”
Because of his background, many of Judge Guzmán’s colleagues — attorneys and judges — doubted that he would actively pursue General Pinochet and others accused of human rights crimes when they learned he had been assigned to this case (in Chile, judges are responsible for investigating and prosecuting, as well as trying, cases).
Granted unique access to this historic investigation, filmmakers Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco (veteran journalists who have reported on Chile for four decades) closely followed Judge Guzman in his dogged pursuit of the facts – and in the process, captured the remarkable transformation of a man who later said the investigation “opened the eyes of my soul.”
Featuring interviews with former government officials, families of ‘disappeared’ victims, and even secret army recordings of Pinochet, The Judge and the General is an incisive chronicle of one of the 20th century's most notorious episodes and its complex legal aftermath.
Directed by Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco
2008, 83 minutes
Purchase: $295 Classroom Rental: $95
* Winner, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism, 2010
* Emmy Nominated, Outstanding Historical Programming-Long Form, 2009
* Winner, The Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, 2010
* Winner, Silver Butterfly Award, Movies That Matter (Amnesty International) Film Festival, 2009
* Winner, Pukañawi Award, Human Rights Film Festival of Bolivia, 2009
* Outstanding Directorial Achievement Nominee, Directors Guild of America, 2009
* Official Selection, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2008
“Engrossing! An encouraging reminder that justice does ultimately (sometimes) prevail.” – Variety
“The Judge and the General, Tuesday’s offering on the PBS series’‘P.O.V.,’ embodies a contradiction: it proves that a documentary can be heartening and dismaying at the same time." - The New York Times
“As an object lesson concerning the abuse and expansion of government powers and secrecy, the film is uncomfortably germane for many viewers today, including viewers in the U.S.” - Pop Matters
“[A] commanding tale about a rare triumph of human rights.” - San Francisco Chronicle
“A sobering account of the legal pursuit of Gen. Augusto Pinochet by victims of his military dictatorship.” - The Miami Herald