First Year (El primer año)
First Year (El primer año)

Icarus Films will release a new 2K restoration of The First Year (El primer año), the 1972 debut feature by master documentarian Patricio Guzmán, never seen on American screens before.

The First Year will have a weeklong run at Anthology Film Archives in New York City, playing September 8—15, followed by other North American cities.

This overdue theatrical run is presented in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the “first September 11th”: the 1973 U.S.-backed coup in Chile, which saw the democratically-elected socialist government of President Salvador Allende violently toppled by military forces led by General Augusto Pinochet, a cataclysmic event that marked a turning point not only in the history of Chile but in the history of Latin America as a whole.

The First Year is a jubilant record of the 12 months following the election of Chile’s first socialist president, Allende. The film begins with the depiction of the 1970 presidential elections, documenting the historical event of the first success of a left-wing government in Latin America in an open election. Produced when he was only 31 years old and newly returned to his native Chile following his studies in Madrid, director Guzmán travels the country, meeting workers, fishermen, and Indigenous people rising up to reclaim their land. Fidel Castro pays a visit.

The First Year is the film of a young man bursting with energy, creativity, and passionate enthusiasm for the unprecedented political and social transformation taking place before his eyes: a constitutional, legal, and nonviolent Socialist revolution that would prove so threatening to the established power structure that it would soon resort to brute force to crush it (and the film does not miss intimations of this).

Completed while reactionary forces were mobilizing, but before the coup, The First Year is suffused with a degree of hope and possibility that, in retrospect, makes the later films all the more moving and powerful. The film was released in 1972 in Chile, and later in France (where Chris Marker produced a French-language version), and Guzmán later incorporated parts of it into Salvador Allende (2004). But with most of the prints lost or destroyed following the coup, it’s only thanks to a difficult and time-consuming restoration project that the film is now finally available again, and for the first time in English.

The First Year provides an invaluable opportunity to witness the genesis of Guzmán’s body of work and to gain insight into a critical period in Chilean history. This new restoration of the film is presented as part of the retrospective series “Dreaming of Utopia: 50 Years of Revolutionary Hope and Memory”—a New York City-wide event marking the 50th anniversary of the coup and celebrating the award-winning filmmaker Patricio Guzmán’s longtime commitment to documenting Chile’s history.

Co-presented by Icarus Films and Cinema Tropical, this unprecedented retrospective series, taking place in three NYC cinemas simultaneously, begins September 8 and includes nine films by Guzmán, along with special conversations and guest speakers.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will premiere his three-part magnum opus, The Battle of Chile (1975-1979), also in a new restoration, while the IFC Center will host screenings of Guzman’s four most recent films: Nostalgia for the Light (2010), The Pearl Button (2015), The Cordillera of Dreams (2019), and last year’s My Imaginary Country (2022). In conjunction with the theatrical run of The First Year, Anthology Film Archives will also screen Guzmán’s Salvador Allende (2004).

Watch the teaser trailer for The First Year (El primer año).

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