*A present-tense record of nation-splitting turmoil, Patricio Guzmán’s monumental documentary The Battle of Chile remains a landmark of activist cinema.*


I am at a loss how to translate meaningfully the phrase "present-tense" given the context of the sentence. Initially I thought that I can paraphrase it as "A record that presents account on tense events that occured in Chile…". But I am not sure at all now. Can you tell me the exact meaning of the phrase?


In my opinion, the present-tense in A present-tense record refers to the "narrative present", also commonly known as historical present, which "refers to the employment of the present tense when narrating past events.

The historical present will give the audience "a sense of immediacy, as of a recurring vision", so CopperKettle's suggestion that the film would give the feeling of the "present" is not very far off. In fact, I believe that the film used everything to achieve the effect of the "present".

I've checked it on IMDb. According to IMDb, The Battle of Chile: Part I (1975)'s language is Spanish. I can't say anything much about Spanish, but according to The Guardian, the film appeared to be voiced over in English in the present tense (i.e. the historical present):

Everything about the style of the film - the restless camera, the short scenes, the present-tense voiceover - indicates that its makers suspected this as well.

which sums up the whole sense of "A present-tense record" quite well.

  • I was just too lazy to reformulate.. (0: – CowperKettle Sep 24 '15 at 18:26
  • I think your answer (now deleted) is good too, if you added the historical present to it, it would be perfect. :-) – Damkerng T. Sep 24 '15 at 18:33
  • I'm busy with logarithmic equations.. ^_^ – CowperKettle Sep 24 '15 at 18:49

The present tense is used to describe actions happening in the present time. Describing the documentary as 'present-tense' suggests that it was made at the time of the events it describes (rather than being made later, as many documentaries are).

The reviewer probably regards this as a good thing - that the sense of immediacy resulting from it makes the documentary better at conveying to the viewer what it was like to be there when the events it depicts happened.

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