Berko (Global Screen) premieres December 13, 2022 in the U.S. and Canada on MHz Choice!

Berko is a tense, fact-driven, vivid political thriller cum expose, depicting real people and events in this four-part limited series. This masterful adaptation by Enrique Videla is based on co-screenwriter, investigative journalist, playwright and novelist, Roberto Brodsky’s,* 2004 novella, “El Arte de Callar” (“The Art of Silence”). The deafening silence of fear and submission is still evident in 1990 Chile when democratically-elected, President Patricio Aylwin, with a center-left coalition, provided the transition from General Augusto Pinochet’s (1915-2006) right-wing extremist, anti-communist, corrupt military-led government, which persisted under Aylwin’s Christian Democratic Presidency.

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Benjamín Vicuña and Daniela Ramírez in Berko.

Pinochet continued to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Army until retirement in 1998 only to become senator-for-life in accordance with his 1980 Constitution. Although he was arrested in London in 1998 for various human rights violations, he was soon released from prison and placed under house arrest because of ill health. At the time of his death, criminal charges for tax evasion, embezzlement and human rights violations were still pending.  

The socio-economic and political dynamic of Chilean history from the mid-twentieth Century to the present is a textbook lesson about the rise and fall of despots in a military uniform or in a bespoke suit. The new Chilean landscape of 1990 is marred by Pinochet’s over-arching shadow of loss and mourning as investigative reporter, Boris Berkowitz “Berko” (Benjamin Vicuna) along with his colleagues, Suarez (Claudia Celedon) and Lara Eyzaguirre (Goya Toledo) can barely disguise their disgust and loathing for the pervasive climate of fear and secrecy engulfing the population whose memories of Pinochet echo a clear and present danger.  Berko’s editor warns him not to publish the truth about the corruption and venality, unethical and immoral aspects of South American arms trafficking involving go-between, Dieguez (Luis Ziembrowski), informer and Berko’s sometime lover, Daniela aka Divina Day (Daniela Ramirez), fixer and arms trafficker, Javier Rulfo (Alejandro Goic), jeweler, cousin and henchman of Middle Eastern arms dealer Al Khatib, Raymond Assad (Orlando Alfaro) as well as corrupt cop, Rodriguez Bueno (Roberto Farias) and murderer-for-hire, army Colonel Mendel (Elvis Fuentes). 

Producer, Pablo Rosenblatt, and director, Nicolas Acuna, focus on the political machinations that depend solely upon cover-ups and fabricated half-truths that can be published concerning the political, military-industrial complex as well as the suspicious murder of Jonathan Hoyle (Benjamin Westfall), a journalist for “Defense Helicopter World” and presumed MI6 agent. Berko remains undeterred — even risking the lives of his son, Simon (Bruni Caceres) and ex-wife, Nicole (Rossio Toscano); his informer, Daniela and fellow-journalist, Goya.

Benjamin Vicuna*** portrays Berko as a pensive idealist, dogged in his pursuit of truth and transparency; as a father, he is loving, patient and understanding; as an ex-husband, he is caring, sensitive and loyal. Berko understands the carapace of suffering because he lived through it; this ultimately motivates his writing, thereby becoming an oracle of the oppressed who wants to galvanize and to inspire his fellow Chilenos.

Third World Countries—A One-Way Ticket To Hell

Chile and Argentina share a border, a language and a national heritage with the corollary of political volatility stoked by American interests under the auspices of the CIA, resulting in far-right juntas led by Generals Augusto Pinochet and Juan Peron, respectively. A cabal of politicians and Roman Catholic Church leaders, united by the military regime of General Pinochet (1973-1989), whose “coup d’etat” defeated the popular, left-wing, democratically-elected President Salvador Allende (1908-73), was formalized through a legal loophole of the controversial 1980 plebiscite. Pinochet’s extreme authoritatrian governing style became a campaign of repression and reprisal, detention and disappearance, and finally — torture and execution. His repressive dictatorship is painfully detailed in human rights lawyer and Communist party politician, Carmen Hertz Cadiz’s absorbing memoir, “Operacion Exterminio: La repression contra los comunistas chilenos” (1973-76) – describing a large-scale purge of student leaders and pro-communist factions (MHz Choice catalogue – “Caravan of Death” [insert link]) — and in the 2010 biographical film of her husband, Carlos Berger, in “Mi vida con Carlos,” ** directed by their son, journalist and filmmaker, German Berger Hertz, who received a Goya Award.

Chile’s rise from colony to independent republic in 1818 saw rapid economic and geographic expansion. Until the 1970s, the democratization process, fueled by population growth and urbanization was largely supported by a strong reliance on copper mining and exports. The 1960s and 1970s saw extreme political polarization and turmoil leading to Pinochet’s inevitable coup d’etat resulting in the deaths or disappearance of more than 3,000 people through enforced submission and acceptance.

Side Notes:

*Roberto Brodsky Baudet is a multi-talented writer of stage and screen as well novels – winning the 2007 Jaen Prize and the 2009 Martin Nunez Award. He has published over 250 articles in international newspapers and magazines; he is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Latin American Studies.

**Filmmaker and journalist, German Berger Hertz, believes that highlighting the impact of Pinochet’s autocratic rule for the post-Pinochet generation will help society work through the trauma by “re-living” it on screen.

***Benjamin Vicuna worked with actress Paz Bascunan (Maria Paz Bascunan Aylwin), former Chilean President Aylwin’s granddaughter in 2001 on a TV show.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We happily discovered Dr. Pearl Brandwein while reviewing MHz Choice subscriber feedback on our programs and, after reading a half dozen or so of Dr. Brandwein’s insightful reviews, all of us here at MHz Choice had the same thought: We need to get the good doctor to write for us! Enjoy! -MHz Choice

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