Eyes on Chile: Ojo Chile Audiovisual Collective Present an On The Ground View of Chile’s Current Uprising

By 06 February, 2020

Born during the wave of protests against political corruption and a failing economic system in Chile, #OjoChile is an audiovisual collective energising citizens and campaigning against human rights violations in the country. With influential film-makers and change-makers on board, the collective produces informative, emotive, high-quality video content about what’s really happening in Chile.

Ojo Chile came about during the first days of recent social unrest in Chile, in mid-October, when protests were sparked after a hike in metro fees. Students led the resistance and citizens of all walks of life joined in protest against 30 years of social injustice and political corruption.

Ojo Chile, an open group of film-makers, editors, producers and directors, put out a call inviting people to create videos under the motto #ChileDespertó (Chile has awoken) and #YoTambiénDesperté (I also woke up). “Our first videos were testimonies of how people experienced the national awakening,” they tell me.

The audiovisual collective anonymously explain that they began as a WhatsApp group to share images, archives and records of what they were experiencing in Chile in real time. “We were trying to find a way to support the movement from our own field of work,” they recount.

On social media, they use the hashtag #OjoChile – a nod to the hundreds of victims who’ve suffered eye injuries from tear gas, bullets and other forms of violent repression, and to the expression, “Ojo!”, or “Watch out!”. For individuals who work with moving image and film, these ocular attacks have been particularly poignant.

Despite the 980 legal complaints against police and military, published by the National Human Rights Institute in mid-January, there has yet to be a satisfactory response from the government. Of these cases, 770 are for torture and cruel treatment, 158 for sexual violence, 5 for homicide, 18 for attempted murder and 16 for grave injury. “The State needs to respond to the social demands being expressed in the marches,” Ojo Chile insist, “there’s been no response as of yet. We’re stirred more and more each day by this political farce.”

Piñera’s government declared “a state of war against a violent enemy” – Chilean citizens – and a national state of emergency, three days into the protests. He reshuffled his cabinet in an attempt to respond to demands but continues to violently repress citizens on the street and ignore the criminal abuse of his armed forces against these people. New forms of resistance continue to rise up to counter the State’s abuse, using art, the body and social media as tools.

“We understand that we’re all in some way political players,” Ojo Chile explain. “Even so, for many people, what we do breaks personal paradigms in terms of creation – for some we’re more about communication than art, for others it’s more profound.”

After finding out about the collective through various Chilean film-makers and producers, I ask who the collaborators – film-makers, producers, editors, animators, publicists, journalists – are.

“We are made up of both emerging and established artists from Santiago and the regions. We like to keep the mystery about who’s behind Ojo Chile, placing importance on the content rather than its creators. We constantly switch up who’s leading the project, and our anonymity is also a matter of security,” they answer.

Ojo Chile is a collective with diverse perspectives and opinions. They regard their different viewpoints as an advantage – allowing them to analyse issues from a range of angles – “The important thing is that each argument is put forward,” they state, “we focus on the points we have in common” – for example, their standpoint on Piñera’s government and the Constitution.

The current Chilean Constitution is not only outdated and unrepresentative, it was also established during Pinochet’s dictatorship. “We need a new constitution, one that’s legitimate and democratic”, the group tell me. “We believe the new constitution should be written by the public, through a Constituent Assembly.” An astonishing 82% of Chileans are against Piñera’s government and polls show that a staggering 72% of citizens are in favour of a new constitution, debated by an elected constituent assembly. “A major shift in socioeconomic model will ensure equality and dignity in Chile,” the collective believe.

Just as assemblies and councils have taken place in public squares in Santiago, Valaparaíso and elsewhere, Ojo Chile call meetings to debate the implementation of social demands in a new constitution – and importantly, how to support this through film. The group’s work has contributed to the establishment of a referendum for a new constitution, which will be held on April 4th, 2020.

So how has Ojo Chile’s work been perceived? Videos specifically designed for social media have been widely shared and they’ve already gained a 20k following on Instagram. Art is proving to be a powerful tool in Chile’s resistance. During the imposed curfew the nightly cacerolazo rang out over the silence, protest anthems are resurfacing and new soundtracks to resistance are being written by artists such as Ana Tijoux and Mon Laferte. The clanging rhythms sounded out by citizens with their pots and pans have once again become a soundtrack to the resistance.

Ojo Chile collaborators have exhibited work, participated in film festivals, and taken part in street demonstrations abroad, bringing their message and artwork to other countries. “We’re building direct relationships with artists around the world in countries going through similar situations. We’re really interested in sharing and deepening these connections,” they profess.

It’s fundamental for Ojo Chile and for the national movement that their work is broadcast internationally. “This is one of the reasons we came into existence-,” they insist, “to use our skills to challenge the blockade on information.”

The collective aim to generate content that retains the spirit of Chileans’ social demands: “Of course traditional media have omitted this or twisted it to suit their own discourse.”

They are conscious that their footage is contemporary history and has symbolic capital that they need narrative control over, especially in light [shadow] of what they call the “information embargo” imposed by the Chilean media and their “terror campaigns.”

“We support the cause by exposing what the government shrouds and distracts us from,” they tell me. “The media have turned their whole focus to ‘delinquency’ to try and criminalise the movement, neglecting all those who are suffering State violence.”

There have been over 20 deaths, more than 400 eye injuries, and more than 3,600 people wounded in this recent conflict. I have re-written this piece in various drafts, and each time I do the numbers rise horrifically.

How can you follow Ojo Chile and support the artists involved?

Watch their videos, listen, engage. Share their content. You can get the latest from Ojo Chile on social media: @ojochile on Instagram, OjoChile on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The collective are also open to anyone who’d like to collaborate. You can get in touch by email on [email protected].

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