Cineaste, Vol. XLI, No. 4 (Fall 2016)


The Forty-Second Seattle International Film Festival

Reviewed by Dennis West


The compilation documentary Red Gringo, directed by Miguel Angel Vidaurre, draws on an extraordinary abundance of actuality footage and occasional interviews to follow the activities of the American-born show-business celebrity Dean Reed in his beloved Chile from the 1960s into the 1980s, when, during a visit, the Pinochet dictatorship expelled him from the country because of his leftist activism. In the late Fifties and early Sixties, Reed was known in the United States as a good-looking, modestly talented teen singing idol with a few pop singles to his credit, such as "Our Summer Romance." His fame was modest in America; but it rather inexplicably skyrocketed in Argentina and Chile, countries where he later successfully toured and resided for a time.

When confronted with brutal poverty in Chile, he began to develop a political conscience that soon led to much publicized and controversial left-wing political positions, such as those highlighted in 'Red Gringo' in the famous newsreel footage of the singer in 1970 - the year of Salvador Allende's election - symbolically washing the U.S. flag before the gates of the embassy in Santiago while denouncing in the strongest terms his country's racism and imperialism. As a transnational political agitator, Reed rejected America's bellicose anti-communist foreign policy and actively supported Allende's Popular Unity movement, which promised a "Chilean road to socialism." While 'Red Gringo' focuses on Reed in Chile, it also makes some reference to his career - as director, actor, singer, guitarist, writer - in East Germany in the 1970s and 80s, after he had left South America.

'Red Gringo' works best as a snappily edited introduction to Reed's time as both pop idol and revolutionary in Chile; but it may disappoint those somewhat familiar with the subject since it does not explore key sociopolitical issues such as the evolving debates - in a Cold War context - within the Chilean left and the right concerning how best to respectively use or attack Reed's celebrity status, his U.S. citizenship, his music, and his attention-getting style of political grandstanding. For instance, initially many on the left tended to tar Reed and his music with damning charges of cultural imperialism as exemplified by mainstream American pop music; many on the right eventually shifted from considering him a cosmopolitan manifestation of U.S.-style consumerism to eventually pigeonholing him as a foreign agitator linked to the left-wing, rabble-rousing musicians of the pro-Allende Nueva Canción movement. Later, while residing in East Germany, Reed wrote, directed, and starred in the TV biopic El cantor (1978); a clip from that movie shows Reed portraying the renowned Nueva Canción singer and Allende supporter Víctor Jara, who had been savagely tortured and murdered by the Pinochet regime in 1973.


We would formally like to point out that the articles, reports and contributions are presented independently of their truth content. They do not reflect the opinions of the Dean Reed Website team (see detailed declaration).

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Recalcamos expresamente que presentamos los artículos independientemente de su veracidad. No en todos los casos reflejan la opinión del equipo de esta página WEB (léanse las líneas aclaratorias principales).

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Letzte Änderung: 2016-09-01