CHILE - 1973
TESTIMONY OF JORGE REYES
I became acquainted with Charlie Horman in Chile, whilst making the film, ‘Once
again, hope is passing through the fields and towns’.
Like all other people living at this time, I shall recall the testimony of one of my
filming camarades who was assassinated, confirming that the dictator Augusto Pinochet
and the American government were responsible for his death and because his case –
thanks to the persistent fight led by Charlie’s family – gave rise to a great debate on the
responsibility of the Department of State and Industry of the United States for the deaths of
American citizens during the military coup d’Etat in Chile.
Charlie and Joyce Horman
Charlie was a young film maker who came to Chile full of promises, just as many
other Americans were to do. He belonged to the generation of rebels who refused to fight
in the Vietnam War. He was a friend of Dick Pierce, the author of Hearts and Minds, one of
the best films about Vietnam, and Don Lancer, the author of Woodstock.
He had a special talent for writing and wrote a second long film, ‘Avenue of the
Americas’ which I realised in Chile. At this time, Charlie was writing the script for the
producer, Walter Locke, who proposed the direction of the film to myself. The story was
based on the first manuscript for a film which was to be called, ‘Chile, the second
independence,’ whose story line was about the first attempt to gain economic and political
independence from the president Balmaceda, when confronted by the English Empire
which succeeded the Spanish.
Together, Walter Locke and myself agreed on the need to make a film rapidly, as
Allende’s government was confronted by the North American Empire and its multinational
companies which had taken over from England, closing their grip on this new democracy.
Once the new scene had been decided on, and during the months after the various
preparations and filming, the work between myself, Charlie and the rest of the team was
intense, ending in a second, and final manuscript. This was the time when faschism was
on the increase and terrorist attacks, instead of weakening the Chilean nation, in fact had
the effect of reinforcing its support for the government of the People’s Union. In spite of the
enormous errors which were committed, this resistance had the effect of making the
opposition even more determined and extreme, understanding that the only possible
action was the destruction of the government by the means of a coup d’Etat.
Then the internal enemy, helped by the external enemy, carried out the bloody coup
Around 80% of the filming of the Avenue of the Americas was finished several days
before the coup d’Etat, which allowed Walter to leave the country with almost the whole of
the story on film. The rest of the technicians, with Charlie and myself, decided to stay in
During the days which followed the coup d’Etat, Charlie returned from Valparaiso,
where he found out about several strange manœuvres being made by American
battleships. At this time, we were able to meet up with the rest of the team in the cafeteria
of the Unctad. Logically, the sole subjects of conversation were how we could save the
material which had been filmed and the possibilities which the Chilean resistance had of
consolidating itself, in forming an international fighting front, or, if nothing else could be
done what were, its chances of abandoning the country. Quite logically we all thought that
those who had the greatest chance of leaving the country alive were Charlie and Joyce as
they were both North American citizens. This was to be the last time which we ever saw
It was by complete chance when I was inside the Argentinian Embassy that I first
heard in a shocking way about the killing of Charlie. As every morning, the routine of the
seven hundred or so refugees sheltered in the Embassy queued for the use of the two
toilets which were there. Since there was no toilet paper, newspapers were handed out
instead. When it was my turn, I was given a piece of newspaper, on which there was an
article describing the despair of Edmond Horman, Charlie’s father, when he identified the
body of his son.
Several months later, I was finally able to return to my own country and founded a
film-making company. At the beginning of 1974, thanks to the collaboration of Orlando
Letelier, various politicians and numerous American intellectuals, Walter Locke was able to
raise the money needed to finish his film. Furthermore, I was able to go to New York to
complete the final part of shooting and editing of the film.
Years went by, but considering all that had happened, one can say that, as a
foreigner, living in Chile during these years meant being sentenced to death. Those who
lived during the coup d’Etat will always recall the “Wanted” notices which carried our
names; such notices shall remain in my own memory forevermore. Perhaps it is from this
account of a fellow film-maker who was assassinated that I am able to pay homage to the
entire group of young Latin Americans and other citizens, who, like me, lived the
magnificent dream of accompanying the Chilean nation on its road to a new world, trying
to create a new paradise on the continent, from the mire which had previously existed. I
should also mention the followers of the most important political groups of the continent -
the revolutionary groups of young people from the United States and Europe, the friends of
African movements, priests and progressive Christians from every corner of the Globe.
They joined together in order to participate in this universal dream, which, like a huge
flame, in spite of its imperfections, represented the flame of liberty and made us believe
that social justice finished up by giving us a breath of fresh air, leading us to pastures
green and fresh.
Yet, on the path towards liberty, without any help from external allies, Chile went
adrift and resisted the bloody coup d’Etat as best it could. It was to become the most
betrayed country on this planet.
It is in this way that the General Pinochet triumphed.
There were hundreds of foreign people who fell with Charlie Horman, either killed
with bayonnettes when trying to escape via the mountains on the Chilean border, whilst
other people were arrested and assassinated in there own homes. Finally, there were
those who were tortured and shot in the DINA concentration camps under the direction of
the General Pinochet.
Whilst wounds may heal with time, they will never be forgotten.
The fall of the People’s Union in Chile was a traumatising event which will remain in
my memory for the rest of my life. However, twenty years on, I am beginning to realise that
crimes must always be paid for. Rejected by the world and emprisoned, Chile will never
have the same attitude towards the tyrant Pinochet, whatever happens to him next.
One must always remember that Salvador Allende rose to power with much bravery
and that he died defending his principles. When Pinochet and his followers decided to
carry out the coup d’Etat, they also knew that one day they would have to pay for the
consequences of this dreadful massacre. The moment has now arrived when they must
pay for the crimes committed against their fellow men, their betrayal during the Falklands
war and their responsibility for having made the Chilean army into a traitor against the
purest principles on which it was built - namely the liberating movement of the country of
O’Higgins, San Martin and Bolivar.
Many years after the coup d’Etat, yet before Costa Gavras realised Missing, the
story of Charlie and Joyce Horman, his marvellous and tireless partner, Elisabeth,
Charlie’s mother, with great sadness and upset was to ask me, « Jorge, did Charlie’s
death serve any real purpose? » This question made me shudder and I was unable to
answer it. However, today I can bring myself to answer it, saying that there is absolutely
nothing which could bring her only son back, nor anyone elseís son. However, in one way
or another, truth and justice must be some compensation for this pain.
From the right, Edmon Horman, Jorge, Helizabeth Horman
and the Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune in Cannes 1982.
Jorge avec Joyce Horman
“AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS”
The story of a film and its shooting
The Peopleís Unity 1970 - 1973.
The principal subject of this film is the Chilean nation, its aspirations and president,
who, in 1970, (for the first time in Latin America), was democratically elected. He had a
democratic programme, based on socialist and pacific principles. Today, twenty-seven
years on, the story behind this film and its makers, is extremely moving.
In 1970, Jorge Reyes, was living in Paris and working on his second film - a short story
inspired by the events of May 1968. It was then that the headline flashed accross the
worldís newspapers; “The socialist, Salvador Allende wins the elections in Chile”. Several
weeks later, Reyes, armed with a camera, a film and many illusions, arrived in Chile.
Having initially come to stay for six months, he remained there for the whole three years of
the People’s Unity.
In September 1973, when the military coup d’Etat was taking place, Reyes was
finishing two long documentarys and a short one concerning the Chilean political system
and the government of the People’s Unity. He was working non-stop, both during the day
and at night. These films were made with the intention of serving as a point of reference
for a debate on the profound evolution of Latin American politics and the revolutionary
fights which were being led there. The election of Salvador Allendeís government broke all
the previous rigidities and it had to be accepted and absorbed by the people.
A few days after the terrible coup d’Etat, the sound engineer, the scriptwriter, the
head cameraman and producer of Avenue of the Americas met for the last time. They
were all of foreign nationality; Migueligno Costas, considered as one of the best sound
engineers, was Brazilian, whilst Peter Oberveck, the most renowned cameraman of the
Chile-Films studios, was German, Charlie Horman, the scriptwriter, was a citizen of the
United States and finally Jorge Reyes was Peruvian. At the time, all the speculations
which were being made favoured
Charlie and his wife: as an American citizen, he ran the least danger, as Washington
constantly stated that every time there was an American intervention, it was made “to
protect the lives of American people in dangerous territories”.
This was the last time that these people ever met and it was the last time that they
saw Charlie Horman alive.
Following the coup d’Etat, Reyes, with the other film-makers, tried to submit to the
resistance of the Chilean people, who were fighting in the streets. They continued to film
as best they could, with the means which they could find. However, as the days went by,
the situation became uncontrollable, with both arrests and executions on the increase.
They were left with the only choice of escaping the repression by leaving the country.
Peter Oberveck managed to leave Chile by passing through Argentina before arriving in
Brazil. On the other hand, Migueligno Costas, sick of the persecutions and the prospect of
prison, decided to stay in his own home and not to face up to the military. He was in fact
arrested with his wife and children and placed in a concentration camp in the National
stadium. Although then, thanks to international pressure, he managed to be deported to
Brazil. After being refused refuge in the Peruvian Embassy, Reyes also managed to
escape; thanks to the violent action of a socialist commando, he manged to enter the
Argentinian Embassy. However, Charlie Horman, just two days after his demand for refuge
in the North American Embassy was refused, was arrested, tortured and subsequently
shot by soldiers.
In all, more than fifty kilos of film were saved: almost all the reels of Avenue of the
Americas were removed from Chilean soil by Walter Locke, the film’s producer. Another
part of the film, ‘At last a hope’ was burried in the garden of a militant, whilst a further piece
was given to Swedish journalists who managed to repatriate the material to Stockholm.
Finally, another piece of the film was burnt by revolutionary militants just minutes before
their arrest following a police search.
In the Argentinian Embassy, Reyes, with seven hundred and fifty other refugees
were to suffer permanent aggression from the dictator Pinochet’s army. The wait was very
worrying, since, being isolated from the outside world, and without having access to
information, the prisoners, in total confusion, did not even know what was happening in the
streets outside. However, the worst was the fact that nobody knew whether all the reels of
film, which had taken three years of patient filming to put together, had been saved, as
planned, or whether they had been seized by soldiers and destroyed.
After many long months of waiting in the Argentinian Embassy, and before the
refusals given by the governments of presidents Peron and General Pinochet to provide a
safe haven for these exiles, a delegate from the Argentinian Radical Party arrived in
Santiago. He managed to convince the chilian junta to let the refugees flee towards
However, once they were on Argentinian soil, another surprise happened. The
government of Peron accepted exiles, but only as banished citizens. The whole group was
split up and Reyes was sent to the province of Corrientes, on the border with Paraguay,
under the supervision of a detachment of the navy. Once again, interrogations by
Argentinian soldiers began and pressure was exerced to find out where the filmed material
was, a subject that even Reyes himself did not have the answer.
Jorge and his sister Confinement in the
in the Rio Parana Navy Army – Corrientes, Argentine
International pressure increased, and became more effective : Reyes and a hundred and
twenty other exiles were transferred to the prison of Villa Devoto in Buenos Aires. Here a
trial took place and several days later they were deported to Lima in Peru. When the
deportation was taking place, Reyes realised that he was going to be taken away in a
plane belonging to the company Braniff, which was going to stop off at Santiago in Chile
and refused to get on board. There was a violent struggle on the plane’s steps, and cries
from every angle. Most of the passengers took part in the struggle and also refused to
climb aboard. The Argentinian police had to put Reyes on a different plane. Several hours
later, he was deported via Paraguay. When stopping at Asuncion and la Paz, he was
removed from the plane for interrogation, followed by immediate expulsion from Paraguay
and Bolivia. Two days later, Reyses arrived in Lima, his birthplace, a town which he had
not been to for some fourteen years. It was then that he founded the film company, Bruma
The Avenue of the Americas was finished in 1975 and is dedicated to the memory
of Charlie, an American film maker and journalist, an activist in all the struggles for
liberation and an ardent defender of human rights.
The Director of
Avenue of Americas
Film director and script writer currently lives in France where he
has both studied and produced his first films. Since then he has
made around thirty films documentaries and feature films, with
various other short stories. He has also been a member of the
Juries for the FIPA, San Sébastian and Seville festivals and is a
member of the SACD.