Chile, cultural history, film and visual cultures, Spanish, trauma

Life imitating art imitating life: The raging discontent of Chile

Alvaro Navarro / CC BY-SA. Concepcion, Chile protests 2019 via Wikipedia

Post submission by Dr. Joe Hardwick and Oscar Cárdenas (PhD Candidate)

Recently, popular Chilean magazine The Clinic conducted an interview with acclaimed filmmaker and PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, Oscar Cárdenas (also known as Oscar Cárdenas Navarro). The interview, which is available on The Clinic‘s website here, focused on Cárdenas’ ability to capture the discontent of Chileans which until recently, had quietly simmered under the surface of normalcy. However, recent events in Chile have brought that simmer to a raging boil, making international headlines.

Chile has experienced ongoing protests and a civil uprising which started on 18 October 2019. These are the largest protests Chile has experienced since the end of the Pinochet’s dictatorship. They began in response to a fare increase on the Santiago Metro’s subway line, emblematic of a much larger issue of disparity in living conditions in the country, with protestors citing factors such as the rising cost of living, income inequality, political corruption, and mass privatisation of services. The crisis has been heralded as yet another “brutal legacy” of the Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet neo-liberalism who ruled from 1979 – 1990. 


Taken on the set of Rabia – photo provided by the director Oscar Cárdenas

The inequalities that Chileans face on a daily basis cannot be understated. Nepotism, neoliberalism and privatisation of even basic services such as health and education mean that many everyday citizens struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis. Contrast this, with the upper class of society whose wealth and power grows year-on-year, and it is easy to see why even the smallest of increases to the cost of everyday living would be enough to push a country to breaking point. Rabia examines this through the story of one woman who is desperately seeking employment to make ends meet, but is faced with the impossibility of achieving such a task given the inherent problems Chile is facing.

As interviewer Victor Hugo Ortega C notes, Cárdenas’ film Rabia (which translates as ‘Anger’ or ‘Rage’, 2006) has been listed as one of the films which helps contextualise and understand the social uprising occurring in Chile. Despite being a low budget film, the  work has clearly stood the test of time, maintaining its relevance and impact on audiences even today. Perhaps because, as Cárdenas reminds us, the film was made independently without state funding, Rabia was able to tell this story it its most pure form. 

Still from Rabia – provided by the director Oscar Cárdenas

For those who are interested in reading more about the Chilean protests, the place of independent film, and the struggles of living within a neoliberal political system, we would strongly encourage you to read Victor Hugo Ortega C’s full interview with Cárdenas. It is available on The Clinic’s website here in Spanish. For those who are unable to read Spanish, a google translate version of the piece can be read here.

We previously posted about Rabia in 2019, and would also encourage you to read more about his work (including parts of his director statement) here. Rabia can also be viewed online (available either in its original Spanish format, or with English subtitles) through the streaming service Vimeo

For updates on Oscar Cárdenas Navarro’s artistic works (both film and photographic), please visit:

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