Some of the most unbelievable stories are based on true events, and many of them are rooted in political turmoil. Throughout history, humans have made unimaginable leaps and evolved beyond recognition, but one thing has stayed constant: politics and turbulence go hand in hand. And it’s that turbulence that creates the most implausible scenarios that even the wildest writers can’t make up.
In the ‘60s, a 19-year-old poet sparked the beginning of one of the most violent terrorist organizations in world history. In 1973, a Finnish diplomat saved some 2,000 Chilean refugees during Austo Pinochet’s bloody coup. If hearing these premises makes you think, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” well, you can do just that. Here are six of our favorite political thrillers based on real history.
With nearly 1,000 murders under its belt, including more than 300 civilians, ETA is one of the most deadly and ruthless terrorist organizations in history. So how did it all start with a 19-year-old university student and poet? In the ‘50s, the still-nascent ETA was merely a student-run activist group that protested dictator Francisco Franco’s regime and promoted Basque culture, but over the years their activities grew increasingly violent until they became a full-blown militant terrorist group known for their bomb attacks. This series traces ETA’s early days and pinpoints the moment the organization made a turn for the bloody, when its then leader, Txabi Etxebarrieta, crossed the “invisible line.”
In 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a violent coup d’etat in Chile that deposed the Popular Unity government of socialist president Salvador Allende and ended civilian rule by establishing a military junta. The coup itself was a day of bloodshed, but it also sparked a wave of unprecedented violence that would claim the lives of thousands of Chilean leftists and imprison 40,000 more. While the event may be a stain on international history, it also bred some extraordinary stories of courage and defiance. “Invisible Heroes” tells the story of Tapani Brotherus, a real-life superhero that you’ve probably never heard of. The Finnish diplomat was stationed in Santiago when the coup was launched. Defying his government’s orders, he decided to stay in Chile to help refugees and managed to get more than 2,000 out of the country and to safety. It’s time the world knew his name.
What exactly did it feel like to be there during the coup in Chile? Chris Marker’s fictional film “The Embassy” reenacts the event from the perspective of a political dissident seeking refuge inside an embassy in an unnamed country. Shot entirely on Super-8 film, the story unfolds as a home video made by the narrator, who captures his fellow refugees around him. First they have ideological debates, but as startling announcements trickle in—dissidents are being executed at a soccer field nearby—intellectual debate turns into battle for survival.
For nearly half a century, the political landscape in Italy was stable, dominated by the Christian Democracy party and several supporting parties—collectively known as the “First Republic.” Then the ‘90s came. This trilogy follows the three years that changed Italy forever through the perspectives of a group of people caught in the middle. In 1992, a massive nationwide anti-corruption investigation was launched that put as many as 5,000 public figures under scrutiny for bribery charges and led to the collapse of the First Republic. The following year, wealthy media magnate Silvio Berlusconi rose from the ashes. In the final installment, Berlusconi ushers in a new era. See how the former Italian PM, billionaire businessman, and one of the most controversial figures in history—who is now synonymous with “corruption”— ascended to power.