Meeting Point (Punto de Encuentro) is the story of how the terrors of General Pinochet’s regime nearly 50 years ago continue to haunt Chileans to this day. Paulina’s father, Lucho Costa del Pozo, was imprisoned in Santiago’s notorious torture centre, Villa Grimaldi, along with Alfredo’s father, Alfredo García Vega. Both were members of a revolutionary group MIR (Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria/Revolutionary Left Movement) who were seized by paramilitary forces in the chaos following the US-backed coup that ended with the death of the popularly elected Marxist Chilean leader Salvador Allende in 1973.
One of the two young men survived; the other did not. Meeting Point examines the unresolved pain of those who knew and loved one of Chile’s «disappeared» and the trauma of those who survived.
Alfredo was 18 days old when his father was seized. Still officially missing, his mother believes Alfredo senior was shot dead and his body tossed into the sea. Paulina’s father, Lucho, shared a tiny cell in Villa Grimaldi with Alfredo Snr and survived. He does not know why his fate was to live, and his prison camp friend was to die, and he remains tortured by the memories from those times.
Afredo Snr’s wife, Ginny, survives, and the film examines how she and Lucho – and their children and family members cope as the past is disinterred in a film they are making about the experiences of the two young men. It is through this film of the making of a film that Baez, with the participation of all members of the families, is able to reach into the inner world of experiences often hard to put into words.
It is through this film of the making of a film that Baez… is able to reach into the inner world of experiences often hard to put into words.
Ginny remembers gestures – how her husband, a handsome man in his mid-20s, thumbed his nose at her as he left on the last day she would see him. Working with young actors and actresses – chosen for their similarities to those they portray – she finds herself transported back decades. Lucho also has to cope with seeing an actor portray a younger version of himself – at times, a very difficult experience, particularly when scenes of torture are re-enacted.
We share the touching scenes of the two men playing dominos – using a homemade set made out of pierced pieces of newspaper. Lucho smuggled this set out, hidden between his toes, and has them to this day – showing them to his grandchildren as one might reveal an ancient icon.
And we experience his fear and nausea as he relives the torture inflicted on him at Villa Grimaldi. «I don’t remember the pain, but I do remember the light show I saw when they switched on the electrodes placed on my temples and inside my mouth», he recalls.
It is here that Meeting Point truly succeeds in bringing its themes together – the generation that lived through Pinochet’s repression is able to access and begin to come to terms with the pain of their losses – loved ones, health, and mental peace. The children, who grew up without a father or with one whose trauma had so damaged him, begin to understand their parents in a deeper way. Alfredo, witnessing the prison scenes during the making of their film, finds it painfully exposing the myths and layers he had built around the image of his father. Paulina confronts her own guilt at bringing her father face to face with the ghosts of his past. And even the young actors are overwhelmed and brought to tears as they sense, through their own experiences of embodying these victims of oppression, just what this trauma truly means to Chile.
Meeting Point is an emotional roller-coaster that does not only dredge through the recent past but also draws direct parallels with Chile’s current social and economic crisis, where paramilitary forces continue to crack down heavily on anything the government deems as dissent.
And it is also a graceful film that celebrates the power of family, and the human spirit, to come together and overcome.
‘Meeting Point’ screens its European Premiere as part of the 2023 Thessaloniki Documentary Festival.