A Dictator Dethroned ; THE WEEKEND'S TV

By Sutcliffe, Thomas | The Independent (London, England), March 27, 2006 | Go to article overview
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A Dictator Dethroned ; THE WEEKEND'S TV


Sutcliffe, Thomas, The Independent (London, England)


Pinochet in Suburbia SUN BBC2

Banglatown Banquet SAT BBC2

We're counselled to avoid vindictiveness in life, but a lot of television drama would be very bland without its flavour. First of all we're taught to hate a villain, and then we're offered the satisfaction of seeing him get his just deserts. We'd be less than human if we didn't take pleasure in this, although the appetite can lead to odd places. In Richard Curson Smith's BBC2 drama last night, for example, a group of people conspired to send an old man to prison, taking advantage of the fact that he was lying in a hospital bed as they plotted. But then the old man was General Pinochet, long- standing voodoo doll for those of liberal inclinations, so it was hard not to take a certain satisfaction at his dismay. "I wonder if you're relishing the situation for revenge," asked a consultant hired to train Chilean campaigners for media performances. "Yes, it is revenge," said the sister of a murdered woman. "I'm enjoying this like you couldn't imagine."

One person's vindictiveness is another person's quest for justice, of course, and Pinochet in Suburbia was nicely alert to the impurity of the story it told, the way in which personal grudges and historical injustice overlapped one another as the black farce played out. A female police constable, bullied by the General as she guarded him during his luxurious house arrest, took her revenge by applying the conditions of his detention with humiliating exactitude. He wasn't even allowed to go to the lavatory alone, she explained, citing the Geneva Convention on the care of prisoners who might harm themselves. It was a petty kind of punishment for mass murder and torture, but, in the absence of anything better, it would have to do. Tellingly, the longer she spent in the General's presence, the harder she found it to keep up her coldness.

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