Had to close 2011 with my take on a film. Most particular is that I’m closing the year with comments about a documentary and not a fiction film. 2011 had some outstanding films but my top films are definitively documentaries and yes, it’s a first! Really loved Pina it is truly outstanding but my top film for 2011 absolutely is a documentary about a Chilean desert and everything that once happened there, is currently happening there and will continue to happen there. Is about the Atacama Desert.
In life there are many things that make us deeply wonder, like the infamous question “where do we come from”, we being the human race or better, life in planet Earth. The Atacama Desert is “the” driest place in planet Earth, there is no humidity –so, there are no clouds making it the best place to have the largest telescopes on Earth. From there astronomers are learning about the beginnings or the big bang -if you wish-; but actually are learning about the past, a very-very-very far away past that could explain us, life, and the very ephemeral present. Documentary starts telling us about all this with the most mind blowing images of the universe, which are so good that honestly made me feel tiny, very tiny and humble.
I already felt small and deeply humbled by what I saw, but nothing prepared me to what followed.
The first fateful September 11th came with brutal repression that killed many and yes, I have seen several movies about that date and what followed after; BUT, never like what I saw here. The Atacama Desert during Pinochet had several concentration camps and one is quite close to where the marvelous and huge telescopes are. Was an old mine from the times when mining was like slavery, so easily became a prison for political prisoners. Prisoners from those camps and elsewhere were killed and dumped into massive graves that were “moved” to erase their existence. In the “moving” process bodies, cadavers were split with broken feet and heads parts flying out and bodies placed on trucks to be thrown elsewhere (mostly in the sea). Many, many Chileans mothers walk the Atacama Desert searching for their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters; and some found something that allow them to finally realize that they are dead. These mothers, as the close-by astronomers, are searching the past for clues.
I know I’m telling a lot about what this film is about, but I’m doing it so when you watch this film you’ll be prepared, you will have an idea of what you will see and after watching you will be able to “digest” everything a lot faster. See, the situation with this film is that is not horror, NO, on the contrary is so beautiful, then so real, then so crude-real (and beautiful), so painful to watch (everything hurts), so beautiful, so beautiful, so horrific, so beautiful and finally an ending that strongly blends both stories into one. Ah!!
Patricio Guzman’s oeuvre is so well-done that will impress you beyond your imagination as flawlessly and most delicately will tell you his story (he narrates), a slice of the story of his country, the story where most likely Scientists will find more and new answers about our past, and where Chilean people found, are finding and will find knowledge about their recent past. Chapeau Master Guzman.
Strongly recommend this marvelous film that was screened in 2010 Cannes, won the 2010 European Film Award for documentary plus many more well-deserved honors in the festival circuit. Film has impressed general audiences but most interesting for me was to find that also impressed scientists, still after watching you’ll understand why so many have succumbed to Patricio Guzman incredible narrative and narrative style.
Watch trailer @MOC