GFF 2018: Rousing story of a group of Scottish workers who took a stance against Pinochet
'They Shall Not Pass' is used here specifically as a Scottish variation on La Pasionaria's anti-Franco declaration at the time of the Spanish Civil War. It's an ideal slogan for Felipe Bustos Sierra's rousing documentary – his feature debut and an expansion of his 2013 short – made in conjunction with the Scottish Documentary Institute and BBC Scotland, and part funded by Kickstarter donors. Nae Pasaran tells a universally comprehensible story of ordinary Scottish workers who refused to work on military warplanes.
Archive footage sets the scene: the coming of General Pinochet's military junta in mid 70s Chile involves the bombing of government buildings by British Hawker Hunter aircraft. When the Rolls Royce engines of the planes arrive for repair in East Kilbride, the workers decide to 'black' the project, putting the engines into indefinite cold-storage. The issue becomes a political football, and although the rusted engines mysteriously find their way back to Chile, many lives have been touched in the process.
The son of a Chilean exile, Sierra interviewed the Scottish workers, then went to today's Chile to find out what impact their actions had. A suggestion that the engines were exchanged for refugees can't be authenticated, but it's clear that the gesture of non-compliance had a strong political resonance. The only real fault that can be found with Nae Pasaran as a film is that the scope is limited: Rolls Royce employees declined to be interviewed, and wider questions about British and American arms policy are alluded to rather than openly discussed.
Nae Pasaran is a highly emotive documentary that demonstrates the power of solidarity in democracy, while also showing that admissions of guilt are rare. Instead, Sierra celebrates an unassuming group of men who took on a powerful enemy of the people, and won a small but important moral victory.
Screening on Sun 4 Mar as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.