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Nostalgia for the Light

March 21, 2011

New Patricio Guzmán Film Explores
Timelessness, Memory, and Murder

Chile’s high-altitude Atacama Desert is the driest, most lifeless place on earth. Yet its sands, salt deposits, and stones preserve the memories of the peoples who passed through on ancient trade routes – and of more recent, unwilling transients as well. Here, away from the eyes of the world, the Pinochet dictatorship operated a massive concentration camp. And here, also, it dumped the bodies and bones of men and women it had “disappeared.” Today a dogged band of bereaved mothers sift the desert’s dry soils for any traces of their murdered children.
            The Atacama’s altitude and climate attract other seekers as well. Archaeologists pursue clues to vanished civilizations, and astronomers probe through the clear atmosphere into the depths of the universe and time. In its own way, each of these quests is an exploration into the past histories of our world, our species, our civilization, ourselves. In his new film, Nostalgia for the Light, Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán welds these seemingly disparate elements into a profoundly convincing whole.  
            Guzmán was forced into exile during the Pinochet years, after producing The Battle of Chile, his epic documentary on the military overthrow of the democratically elected regime of Salvador Allende. His later film, The Pinochet Case, indicted the U.S.-supported military regime which followed. 
            Nostalgia de la luz (its Spanish title) is a more meditative and personal film. The friends I go to the movies with would tell you that I don’t like this sort of thing, but I was blown away. It is gorgeously imagined and filmed, beautifully written, and deeply provocative.
            Visit the Icarus Films website for information on upcoming screenings in New York City, Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and elsewhere. The films mentioned here, and others by Guzmán, are available from Icarus for institutional and personal use.

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