Victor Jara

Sabri Oncu soncu at
Tue Dec 24 16:22:03 MST 2002

I loved listening to Victor Jara when I was a kid so kept this
Reuters piece from 2000 in my archives. Don't know what happened
with the below mentioned movie plans.



Chile folk hero set to be reborn in film and music

By Aislinn Simpson

SANTIAGO, Nov 16, 2000 (Reuters) - His face adorns T-shirts just
like Latin American's rebel icon Che Guevara. One of his songs
was the rallying cry of the 1979 Iranian revolution. Spanish
actor heartthrob Antonio Banderas is eager to play him in a film.

Chile's Communist folk singer Victor Jara is less remembered
around the globe these days than when he was tortured and
murdered during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's bloody 1973 military
coup, but his songs and his life are about to reborn.

Warner Music last month took over the rights to distribute Jara's
music worldwide, pushing aside a local grass roots label, Alerce.
And British actress Emma Thompson plans to direct a film about
the life of the son of a peasant farmer whose final hours were
spent as a prisoner of Pinochet, locked with hundreds of other
leftists in a soccer stadium used as a temporary jail.

The film must be finely balanced between standing by the ideals
and beliefs of Jara and bending to the demands of the cutthroat
music world and a movie industry known for its often-distorted
view of history.

Jara's widow, Joan, wants to keep his image intact, but at the
same time she welcomes the extra cash, admits the Victor Jara
Foundation, which polishes the singer's image and works with
young artists from poorer areas.

"Victor's recordings really should be published worldwide and of
course if you're signed with a small local company then that
becomes very difficult," she told Reuters, adding that it was an
agonizing decision to move distribution rights to Warner Music
from Alerce -- not least because the local label was founded by
the folk singer's disc jockey friend Ricardo Garcia.


>From mid-2002, Jara's hits with opening lines such as "Rise Up
and Look at the Mountains" -- a tune Iranians sang out in their
Islamic revolution 21 years ago -- will be in two compilations
under the Warner label. Other well-known political ballads such
as "I Remember You Amanda" and "The Right to Live in Peace" will
also be distributed along with previously unreleased material and
live concert music.

Warner plans to include in each compilation historical
information in English and photographs to explain Jara's life and
beliefs. "We want to show the part of Victor as an artist, a
creator, and a successful one at that," said Carlos Fonseca,
producer for Jara's Warner contract.

It is the intriguing life of Jara, who was born in 1932 in the
rural village of Lonquen just outside Chile's capital, Santiago,
that has Emma Thompson working on scripts for a screenplay and
that has sparked the interest of Banderas.

"Ever since I was presented the project I was intrigued ... the
life of Victor Jara is a great challenge for me as an actor
because he was such a polemic and popular artist," Santiago's
daily La Tercera recently quoted the actor as saying.

Thompson visited Chile in 1997 to kick off the project and Joan
Jara took her on a tour of the country's poorer communities, from
which the folk singer derived inspiration.

Initially an innovative and energetic theater director, Jara
celebrated the simple life of rural Chileans making a living off
the land and their almost unvarying a diet of red wine and
empanadas, Chile's staple meat and vegetable pies.


Jara was a strong supporter of the so-called red wine and pie
revolution of socialist President Salvador Allende, who was
ousted by Pinochet and died in still mysterious circumstances
during the coup; some say he committed suicide, others that he
was murdered by Pinochet's troops.

As his widow said, "Victor wasn't just pretty music," and as
Chilean politics veered to the red before 1973, Jara shifted his
songs from the exhausted plowman to the oppressed workman.

His political message became evident in songs such as "Our Hearts
are Full of Banners," following the killing of a union worker by
police, and in a dedication to Che Guevara in which Jara sings:
"Son of the revolution ... because his life was dedicated they
want to murder him."

It was Jara's own revolutionary beliefs and his leftist politics
that led Pinochet's troops to take him to Chile's National
Stadium in the heart of the capital on Sept. 12, 1973 -- the day
after the putsch.

Survivors from the stadium have told how soldiers taunted him to
play his guitar, then broke his fingers. His tortured,
bullet-ridden body was found in the street a few days later.

In the witch-hunt that followed, his British-born wife fled to
London with their two daughters, Manuela and Amanda, taking many
of Victor's tapes to prevent Pinochet's troops from destroying
them. They lodged with British poet Adrian Mitchell, who wrote a
tribute to Jara later put to music by Arlo Guthrie, first
improvised in a concert in New York featuring Pete Seeger, Bob
Dylan and the Beach Boys.

"I think that what's really triumphed is the fact that you can't
just wipe something out by killing a man because his ideals are
something that are important to people," said his widow, who
wants her husband to be seen not as "a poster with a raised fist
but a man."

But many Jara fans and music buffs still believe it was the
mixing of politics and the folk rhythms of the era that made him
a success -- something that some critics believe is being pushed
aside in the Warner music deal and the movie plans.

"I still do not agree with what they've done ... it's forgetting
Victor, his values and fight, why they killed him," said Vivian
Larrea, Garcia's daughter and director of Alerce.

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