Documentaries on Pablo Neruda

To honor the Chilean poet's centennial, the Latino Cultural Center of Chicago is presenting two new documentaries. In Neruda, the Man and His Work (42 min.) Luis R. Vera makes ample and effective use of the poet's fancifully decorated homes in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Isla Negra to capture his sensuous nature. The video is divided into ten segments that supposedly encapsulate Neruda's life and literature, but a dearth of biographical material and a wealth of windy thematic statements conspire to keep him at a distance. (For some reason it's screening with Viola Chilensis, Vera's 85-minute profile of Chilean musician Violeta Parra.) More potent and colorful is Mark Eisner's Pablo Neruda! Presente! (84 min.), which tells Neruda's story in the context of Chile's political struggles. Eisner closely examines Neruda's involvement in the Spanish civil war, his embrace and rejection of Stalin, and his involvement in Salvador Allende's presidential campaign; he also illustrates Neruda's lyric vibrance with scenes of artists creating and comments from workingmen who love his poetry.

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