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Chilean history, with modern touches

A new movie brings Chilean history to young people but takes a few liberties with the truth.

Unconfirmed accounts from prisoners say that the former Nazi Walter Rauff — the man who invented the gas vans that killed nearly 100,000 people during World War II and was then living in Punta Arenas — helped the Chilean military design the new camp based on a Nazi blueprint. The movie asserts this as fact.

The movie often plays out the contradiction between the human instincts of the soldiers and the way they were expected to treat the prisoners. In one scene, soldiers take the prisoners to a warehouse where they stored food, telling them to fill their pockets with walnuts and fruit.
Bitar tells in his book of how one night, a group of young soldiers crept into their barracks and went from bed to bed asking the prisoners for their autographs. They wanted their parents to know they had been the guards of important people.

Due to international pressure — including the efforts of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, which are mentioned in the film — the "VIP" prisoners were transferred from Dawson to other detention camps in May 1974. Most spent many months imprisoned before being expelled from the country. None were ever tried in court.

The Chilean-Brazilian-Venezuelan co-production was filmed on Dawson Island in September and October of last year, under weather conditions similar to those the real prisoners endured, including a snow storm.

It was released Sept. 10, one day before the coup anniversary, to average reviews. Much of the criticism pointed to its lack of historical context and the fiction weaved into the real events.

Miguel Lawner, a former Dawson prisoner, had serious differences with Littin regarding the script. He doesn’t like how the director invented people and situations that never existed, distorted the role of some and ignored others, or the way in which Littin recreated the death of Allende in the presidential palace as a murder, and not as the suicide that has since then been corroborated.

“The movie is full of situations that aren’t like they actually happened," Lawner said. "I went to see the movie very skeptical, but since then, I have gotten many calls, especially from young people, impacted by the movie, saying they had no idea all of that had happened. In that sense, I guess Littin achieved his objective, in spite of the liberties he took.”

Translation of the trailer:

I’m asking you your new name!
Island what?
“The men of Dawson. Their courage changed their lives”
This is Dawson island.
“Their struggle changed history”
It’s going to be impossible to control so many prisoners.
The solution would be to execute them once and for all.
At this time, you should consider yourselves prisoners of war, as ex ministers or leaders of the government of Mr. Salvador Allende.
I’m Dr. Arturo Jiron.
You’re no one here.
We wanted to change history, but destiny led us to this strange sensation of uncertainty and defeat. What did we do wrong? What mistakes did we make?
I’m accompanying my father who suffers a heart ailment.
We have to get out of here alive, Osvaldo.
I heard that they’re going to kill you all.
You’re not going to kill anyone in Dawson.
“They paid the price of their dreams with their own lives”
“Beyond oblivion”
“Dawson, Island 10. Based on real events”
“Based on the book by Sergio Bitar, Island 10”