The Pearl Button / El botón de nácar Chile 2016

Wednesday 6th April at 4.00 p.m. and on Thursday 7th April at 6.15 p.m.


This is the new film by Patricio Guzman. His most famous work is The Battle of Chile. This epic documentary was made in exile in Cuba in three parts. These are La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas – Primera parte: La insurreción de la burguesía 1975: Segunda parte: El golpe de estado 1976: Tercera parte: El poder popular 1979. The last time it was shown locally was five or more years ago in one of the screenings ‘tween’ festivals and then I think only Part 1 and Part 2. There were 35mm prints in the UK [Metro Pictures], if they are still here it would be good to have a fresh opportunity to see what Time Out praised as “among the best documentaries ever made”.

Guzman’s new film is a companion piece to the earlier Nostalgia for Light / Nostalgia de la luz 2010. Both films combine a sort of poetic essay with a documentary treatment. The earlier film was mainly set in Chile’s northern and arid Atacama desert. In part it followed widows and family members of the ‘disappeared’ under the Military Junta looking for traces of their lost ones. The new film is set in the southern Patagonian region and initially addresses the genocidal treatment of the indigenous Indians but then draws parallels with victims of the Junta who perished in the same region. The button of the title is one of the links between these groups.

In both films Guzman uses a physiological and cosmological metaphor to bind the issues together. In this film it is water: bought to earth originally by comets and one of the major features of the Patagonian region: the others are mountains and glaciers. Both films are full of impressive visuals and enjoy distinctive sound designs. I thought the metaphoric aspects worked better in this film. It also has a freer form which allows/demands that the audience think through the interaction.

The film is in standard widescreen and colour with English subtitles. It also uses black and white archival stills and film. My only reservation was that the film follows that increasing and problematic habit of reframing early film: not exactly respectful for the predecessors of today’s’ filmmakers.

The film is showing on Wednesday and Thursday. The Wednesday screening will also offer one of the short films from The Artist Cinema 2016: El Helicóptero, which turns out to have an intriguing link with the feature, [Thursday’s may also screen this short film]. Thursday’s screening is followed by a recording of a Q&A with the film director.

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