An Unfinished Song

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


Concerned with music, collective memory, and the shelf life of justice, this film is both a meditation on the soul of the Nueva Cancíon folk movement of 1960s Chile and a look at the modern struggle to bring an ex-Pinochet lieutenant to justice for the brutal murder of Nueva Canción’s most beloved star.


We plan to tell an ambitious multifaceted story about the death of Chilean folk singer and political activist Victor Jara, who became an international icon of peace and resistance after his brutal torture and killing by the Pinochet regime in 1973. In the years since,Jara’s story has inspired generations of artists, activists, actors, writers, musicians and millions of others who have been touched by his courage and selfless spirit, yet competing versions of the events leading to his murder have shrouded the true story of his killing in mystery.

The film will weave Jara’s personal story with an attempt to bring one of his alleged killers to justice in American court. The narrative will explore the duality of the US’s role in the drama; as both a source of material support and refuge for his killer but also as the architect of the law under which he will be prosecuted.

Over the past thirty years, human rights lawyers in the U.S. have revisited the Alien Tort Statute of 1789, which allows foreign nationals to prosecute U.S. citizens and entities for crimes committed outside of the United States, and have had unprecedented success winning high-profile human rights cases against companies such as Royal Dutch Petroleum, Coca Cola, Chevron, and others.

In this case it is being used against Pedro Pablo Barrientos, a former Pinochet lieutenant and graduate of the School of the Americas, who after the fall of the Pinochet regime moved to the United States and took up residence in Deltona, Florida. In 2011, a Chilean TV news crew tracked him down and questioned him about his involvement in Jara’s murder after he was singled out by a fellow military intelligence officer in Chile. An extradition request for Barrientos has been issued by the Chilean government and the evidentiary hearing in his case in Florida court is slated for February 2015.

By retracing the events leading up to Jara’s death and intertwining them with interviews with the legal team, footage from the trial, archival footage from Jara’s life and musical career, as well as additional interviews with family members and acquaintances, the story will reveal the important paradigm shift that is currently taking place in the U.S. legal system concerning the prosecution of international human rights violations domestically, and putting an end to impunity for human rights violators.

The legal team is led by Almudena Bernabeu of the Center for Justice and Accountability, who previously appeared in director Pamela Yates’s critically acclaimed “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator”. Production locations include Washington D.C., Florida, San Francisco, and Santiago, Chile between August 2014 and April 2015.


The initial inspiration for this film came from a fascination with Víctor Jara’s music and the power of his presence on camera. Therefore we plan to make thoughtful use of the existing archive of Jara’s performances, and in so doing adopt a mixed media aesthetic for the project - ratty 16mm prints mixed with contemporary digital photography, and Chilean TV news material mixed with still photographs taken in the 1970s. This patchwork approach also recalls the collection of evidence human rights lawyers might do in preparation for a trial such as the one at the center of our film.


Sean Mattison - Director / Producer

Sean Mattison is a director, cinematographer, and co-founder of Arbiter Productions – a Brooklyn, New York based multimedia and film production company founded in 2008. As a cinematographer he has worked with acclaimed directors including Pamela Yates (Granito: How to Nail a Dictator), Lotfy Nathan (12 O'Clock Boys), Hannah Fidell (A Teacher), Josh & Ben Safdie (Daddy Longlegs, Heaven Knows What) and Jay Bulger (Beware of Mr. Baker). He was also a camera operator on "Ballplayer: Pelotero" and "Schooled: The Shame of College Sports". He is multi-lingual and has worked in many different countries across Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as having directed and produced branded content for Fortune 500 companies and major media outlets alike.

Sam Ellison - DP / Producer

Sam Ellison is a graduate of Harvard University’s department of Visual and Environmental studies and a member of the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600. As a 1st AC and Operator he has worked on more than 40 feature films, including critical favorites like “Fishing Without Nets”, “Ain’t them Bodies Saints”, “Fishtail”, and the upcoming films “Time Out of Mind”, “A Most Violent Year”, and “Franny”. In the last year he has split his time between projects in New York and Mexico City.


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