all photos copyright © 2013 Julio Moline



In 1981 filmmaker John Chapman asked me to help produce a documentary of a Joan Baez concert tour of Latin America.  Her plan was to give concerts and meet with human rights organizations in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. They all had reppressive military dictatorships so filming the tour would be historically valuable.

We did not travel as a standard documentary film crew but instead, as a couple of “roadies” making home movies with  Super 8 cameras.  This ruse helped prevent confiscation of our equipment by authorities.

Joan was prohibited from giving paid concerts in those three countries for fear that she would criticize their human rights violations from the stage.  We were always under surveillance, Joan suffered death threats, our meetings had bomb threats and tear gas thrown.  But up to a point, her celebrity protected her (and us by extension), and she was able to give comfort to victims of human rights violations. 

We travelled for four weeks, probably the most fascinating, intense month of my life.  It was an honor being close to Joan and seeing her interact with the powerful and the humble, never losing her grace, compassion and sense of humor.  As the tour went on the concert cancellations took a toll and frustration mounted, but she never turned down an opportunity to meet with those who would welcome her singing or her listening.

These photographs are part of a record of that tour.

all photos copyright © 2013 Julio Moline California

John films Dr. Laura Bonaparte and Joan as they look at Dr. Bonaparte’s pictures of Noni, her twenty-four year-old  kidnapped daughter. 

Noni’s body was never found.

In Argentina, more than thirty thousand people were killed in the late seventies by the ruling military during “The Dirty War.” 

Those whose bodies were never found became “los desaparecidos.”

After suing the Argentine Army for the murder of her daughter, Dr. Bonaparte’s son-in-law was killed and her ex-husband was kidnapped. 

She was exiled to Mexico.

This was the only concert Joan gave in the three countries.  It was a free, “private” concert at the recital hall of a catholic church in Santiago, Chile. 

Outside were four buses of heavily armed police.

The trip was a financial disaster for Joan’s company but she never mentioned it.


“That’s a joke to talk about my sorrow and my frustration...that’s nothing compared to what those mothers live through all day long and all night long”.

Joan Baez

Traveling with Joan for over a month was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It left me with a deep respect for her hopeful spirit, her empathy, her intelligence and her incredible wit. 

Even some of her longtime fans don’t know how funny she can be.

The numbers of the disappeared in Chile were smaller than in Argentina, but the military government was just as harsh towards its opponents. 

“Those women are asking for proof of the death of their child, or to see the child alive again”.

Joan Baez

The military government in Argentina did not respond to the mothers requests so one afternoon in 1977 they assembled in front of the government palace in Buenos Aires. 

Every Thursday afternoon, for years, mothers and relatives quietly walked in a big circle.

“The mind is a parade of images that one does not know what to do with. 

Did she suffer?  Was she tortured?  Was she abused?  Where is she? 

Because the news we get of that hell is horrible.  So it is a parade of images, of things that come and go. 

And it is very hard to accept all of that”

Argentine Mother

“They would take out their handkerchiefs and I would take out my guitar and I’d play and sing to them, and they would weep.

And they would weep over their children who ‘d been gone, say, anywhere from four to seven years”

Joan Baez

“I had never experienced anything like that in any other country in the world, from being greeted with tear gas at a human rights meeting, to being followed 24 hours a day by two cars full of people who claimed to be our security, to being literally kicked out of the hotel we were staying in...”

Joan Baez

By the time we got to Brazil, the third country in the tour, Joan’s weariness was evident, partly because of the frustration of not being able to perform, but mostly, by...

“...just giving me an iota of what it must be like for people who have had their liberties taken away from them”.

Joan Baez

John Chapman died in 1983, almost a year after our documentary premiered on PBS. 

He was a swashbuckling bohemian, independent, courageous and generous to a fault.  I miss him a lot.

After working in Apocalypse Now with his nephew Sam Bottoms (the surfer), he fell in love with filmmaking, so he took a Super 8mm camera to Nicaragua to film the Sandinista uprising.  His 1979 documentary Scenes From the Revolution has some of the grittiest combat footage of that war.