Over 40 Years Later, Musician-Activist Victor Jara Remains Relevant as Ever

Victor Jara

Victor Jara might not be a household name outside his home country of Chile, but perhaps it should be: his story remains as relevant as it is poignant.

A singer-songwriter, theater director and working-class activist often called "the Bob Dylan of South America," Jara became well-known in the late 1960s and early '70s for his songs and writings on inequality, labor and social justice. That focus that took on a whole new layer of tragic irony when he was kidnapped, tortured and killed by Chilean military officers working for newly installed dictator Pinochet during the U.S.-backed coup of 1973.

The Resurrection of Victor Jara, a 2015 documentary from director John Travers, explores the folk legend's life, death and legacy through archival footage, interviews with musicians (Bono, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie among them), and Jara's songs -- the artist's own recordings as well as performances by the wide range of Chilean and Argentine musicians he influenced.

The film gets its West Coast debut this Saturday, Feb. 18, at Artists' Television Access in San Francisco, as one of 11 films that comprise the Noise Pop festival's 2017 lineup. (Though it's still primarily a music festival, Noise Pop has in recent years steadily expanded its film schedule; this year's documentaries explore everything from the Burmese punk scene to the rise of modern festival culture to rare footage from the archives of folklorist Alan Lomax.)

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Resurrection’s producer, Fernando Andres, will be onhand at ATA for a post-screening Q&A. And in case anyone needed help connecting the thematic threads presented by Victor Jara's story to modern-day problems: the feature-length film will be preceded by the 10-minute short The Boombox Collection: Boots Riley, by local filmmaker Mohammad Gorjestani. The first installment in a portrait series focusing on underground hip-hop artists, the 2016 doc follows The Coup's frontman on a drive through his native Oakland as he reflects on his long-running crusade against capitalism and his efforts to use music as a "mouthpiece."

"It's always being said that a movement needs art," says Riley at one point. "I think art needs a movement."

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'The Resurrection of Victor Jara' screens at 4pm this Saturday, Feb. 18, at Artists' Television Access in San Francisco. Tickets ($12) and more info here

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