Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Chilean documentary screening provokes questions of memory

<n history became a visual experience and an opportunity for discussions about human rights after a screening of “Nostalgia for the Light,” a 2010 documentary exploring the nature of memory, on Tuesday at the Weitz Center. 
Created by renowned Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, the film used astronomy, archaeology and history to discuss Chile’s troubling past and present.

Guzmán, internationally recognized for his documentaries addressing Chile’s recent history and collective memory, portrays political issues through his many films. Throughout his career, Guzmán has protested against Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and has advanced an agenda that embraces the political left, social justice and economic independence.

Compared to his other films, though, “Nostaligia for the Light,” is “not so politically dogmatic, more personal…and more intentionally artistic,” said Latin American history Professor Andrew Fisher.

“Nostaligia for the Light” is set in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile, where the sky is remarkably translucent and the air so dry that it preserves human remains.  Here, astronomers from across the world observe the stars, while Chilean women search the ground for bodies of loved ones who were tortured and killed in Pinochet’s concentration camps in the desert.  One group scans the sky and the other scans the ground, but both look towards the past for understanding. 

Lautaro Nunez, an archaeologist interviewed in the film, says, “Here the past is more accessible than anywhere.” 
The film employs visually stunning shots of the night sky from the desert. The visual beauty is paired with Guzmán’s narration of his own memories of Chile’s recent history, as well as stories of scientists who work in the desert, former prisoners of the concentration camps and people who have lost loved ones to the brutality.

Fisher and Chilean-born documentary maker Cecilia Cornejo introduced the film and responded to questions from the audience after the screening.  Both emphasized the difficulty of dealing with the past in contemporary Chilean culture and consciousness.

Fisher asked whether it is better for Chileans to bring up the government’s imprisonment and murder of its people or to leave this past behind, calling this question a “political conundrum.” 

Cornejo commented that the film is directed at younger Chilean generations, including her own, who know very little of the coup d’état and the following dictatorship. 

Guzmán’s films “are rescuing the historical memory of what happened in Chile in 1973,” she said.

When he first began to make films, Guzmán aspired to create fiction.  However, Cornejo said that when he was faced with political situation of the 1970s in Chile, this desire was “completely surpassed by what was taking place.” 

 “You are sometimes faced with a reality so much bigger than your hopes and dreams that you give into it,” she said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *