Chilean Jewish Leaders Sought to Convince President Ugarte Not to Ban ‘fiddler on the Roof’

Two leaders of the Chilean Jewish community sought without success recently to convince President Augusto Pinochet Ugarte that the film “Fiddler on the Roof” is not Marxist-inspired and should not be banned in Chile. The issue was taken up by Gil Sinay, president of the Chilean Jewish community, and Rabbi Angel Kreiman at a private luncheon with Gen. Ugarte, leader of the ruling military junta last Aug. 30, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned today.

The JTA reported on Aug. 27 that Rear Admiral Hugo Castro prohibited release of “Fiddler” after censors had passed it, on grounds that it contains “disruptive elements” harmful to the nation. The two Jewish leaders noted in their conversation with Ugarte that the ban could be construed abroad as having an anti-Semitic basis. The President said it should be made clear that the film had not been prohibited but suspended and would be subjected to a new review and analysis of its message. Sinay informed the JTA.

BAN HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH JEWS

Two days before the meeting with the President, the government Secretary, Col. Pedro Ewing Hodar, wrote to Sinay “to inform you and assure you categorically that said measure has nothing at all to do with the world-wide Jewish community, nor much less with the resident community with which the government maintains and wishes to continue to maintain the most cordial relations.” Hodar’s letter added: “The prohibition of the picture (“Fiddler”) obeys the fact that it was considered to contain a message clearly favorable to the Marxist tendencies, of which the Jewish people as well as our country have been the victims.” Sinay and

FACTOR OF DISSENSION IN FILM

According to Sinay, Ugarte said he did not deny the artistic merit of the film but did not consider it favorable to the Jewish tradition because one of the hero’s daughters married a person of a different faith and another married a student with revolutionary ideas who did not accept the traditional marriage bonds. Ugarte took exception to a sequence in which he said the intervention of the military forces was magnified with the clubbing of young students who carried red banners. He said that this might not be important in other circumstances, but considering the present situation in Chile, “the junta cannot accept any factor of dissension,” Sinay reported.

Sinay said that nevertheless, he and Rabbi Kreiman stressed that it would be very difficult to correct impressions abroad that the ban on “Fiddler” did not have an anti-Semitic basis and that this view would only create a false image of events in Chile. They also pointed out to the President that “Fiddler” has been banned in the Soviet Union but exhibited with great success in countries like Spain and Brazil. The latter two governments are vehemently anti-Marxist.

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