The violent overreaction to 9/11 and to the revolutions of the 1960’s cannot be explained only with fear and politics. Franz Hinkelammert, a German-born economist, philosopher and liberation theologian, brings religion front and center to the discussion in a unique way. The emptiness felt by the those at the margins of a free-market utopian ideology has been filled by an extreme millenarian Christianity and other religious fundamentalisms that justify murder and torture as preemptive self-defense. In place of a suicidal theology of death based on defeating or marginalizing others, Hinkelammert advocates an economics that promotes coexistence by looking towards liberation theology and the preferential option for the poor.
Any analysis of how Latin America went from military dictatorships and neoliberal capitalist austerity to the rise of the center-left governments of the last decade cannot simply focus on policy failure. Alternatives came from the grassroots: from activists, unions, base Christian communities and centers like the D.E.I., Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones, based in Costa Rica and co-founded by Hinkelammert after his exile from Pinochet’s Chile. For over 30 years it has brought together thousands of people from Christian community and popular movement groups all over Latin America to discuss, write, research and swap nonviolent solutions to the problems of economic, religious and political exploitation.
During the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-1973), Franz Hinkelammert worked at the Catholic University of Chile, where there was a theological battle between the left-wing liberation theologians and the right-wing Opus Dei Catholics who decried Allende as a godless communist sizing them all up for a future of gulags and breadlines. After the Nixon-Pinochet coup d’etat, Hinkelammert moved to Costa Rica. Books he wrote at the D.E.I. included Ideology of Submission (1977) and Critique of Utopian Reason (1984). Cornell West wrote the foreword to his influential book The Ideological Weapons of Death: A Theological Critique of Capitalism (translated by Phillip Berryman, 1986), calling it “a new point of departure for liberation theology”. Not content to retire as an elder scholar, Hinkelammert is still writing: his 2004 book Property for People, Not for Profit was a prescient analysis of the failure of casino capitalism and the bubble that was about to burst.
The film is based on his research and covers three days of interviews with him shot in various locations around the D.E.I. It includes historical footage as well as new footage shot at former Argentine and Chilean torture centers and CIA black sites in Poland—spaces that are physical reminders of the lengths power will go to when threatened.