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Film documents Chilean family odyssey (Taken from Mississippi Catholic, By Elsa Baughman, Jackson, MS)
Many people prefer to forget and block their memories of sad and catastrophic moments in their lives. Not Lorena Manríquez. Not even after almost 33 years. Sept. 11, 1973, in Santiago, Chile, was a fateful day.
"I was only eight-years-old then and I still recall the noise of the airplanes flying low above my house and the violent images I saw on television," said Manríquez.
It was a coup d'etat. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile died that fatal day and Gen. August Pinochet took over of the country. He governed Chile under a dictatorship for 17 years.
Manríquez has just filmed a documentary about the story of her Uncle Ulises and her father Javier; two siblings torn apart by the political differences between a socialist and a dictator.
"My Uncle Ulises was a syndical leader and member of one of the parties that supported Allende," Manríquez said. Her father was an army officer and supported Pinochet.
"Ulises' Odyssey" was filmed in Spanish with English subtitles. It's scheduled to be shown only at the Crossroads Film Festival Saturday, April 1, at 5 p.m. The festival will run from March 30-April 2 at Parkway Place Cinema in Jackson.
Manríquez said she always wanted to know what had happened to her Uncle Ulises and why he had disappeared. "But during that time in Chile people couldn't talk politics, not even at home where his name was not mentioned at all," she said. "Ulises is a survivor. He returned to Chile after 30 years living in exile in Switzerland and I am telling his story," she said. "A story that I think is very important; a story the people should know."
Through the years she heard bits and pieces of information about how her uncle was taken to the Austrian Embassy in Chile hiding in the trunk of an ambulance, "but nothing was for sure," she added.
When she heard her uncle was going back to Chile, she decided to go there and talk to him to find out for sure what had happened.
Manríquez wrote, directed, filmed (along with Ana Modak-Truran) and was one of the editors of the documentary which was filmed in Switzerland, Chile, and the United States. Ferrell Tadlock, director of religious education at Jackson Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle, was in charge of production.
Manríquez, her husband Gregg Kettles, and their two daughters, Virgina, 8, and Carolina, 6, attend St. Peter Parish.
Manríquez is a civil engineer by profession and a film art director by heart. She says her love for the movies began at an early age watching French and Spaniard movies. In 1985 Manriquez came to the United States to continue her university studies at Washington and Lee University and Virginia Tech with a scholarship from the International Education Institute. At the university, she joined the film society where she met her husband who was the president of the film society.
Early in 2000 she moved with her family to Jackson and met Modak-Truran, an attorney and film producer, who asked her to help with the artistic production of her movies when she find out about Manríquez interest for the film industry.
So far, Manríquez has been artistic director of the movies, "Oh Sunitra!" (2002), "The Birdwatcher" (2003), the musical video, "A Ton Baby," and the children's mini-movie, "The Princess and the Dragon" (2004).
"Ulises' Odyssey" documents her uncle's life, beginning with the tragedy of Sept. 11, 1973, his days in hiding, his escape to Switzerland, his life in exile and his return to Chile after 30 years. The film explores the themes of survival, reconciliation and family.
Manriquez remembers the role of the Catholic Church in Chile during Pinochet's dictatorship, especially the work of Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez who was known in government circles as "the red cardinal" and who "risked everything to help the families of those who disappeared, who were persecuted and tortured during Pinochet's government," she said.
Presently, Manríquez is developing an idea for a documentary on the death penalty including the efforts of Sister Helen Prejean to overturn it. She filmed Sister Prejean' conference last November at Jackson St. Richard Parish.
For information about the Crossroads Film Festival visit www.crossroadsfilmfest.com.