Dir. Patricio Guzman. Chile. 2009.

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Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman returns with another documentary this time that is at times both deeply personal and yet extremely political.

Nostalgia for the Light is set about the Atacama desert in Chile; where the inhospitabe climate and high altitude made it ideal for the building of an observatory which was opened in 1977.  The message of bringing the universe closer to home shows an aspirational tone of the South American nation.

Yet in the same vicinity there is a dark undertone, during the General Pinochet dictatorship used the desert for the Chacabuco Mine prisons were people opposed to the regime would be taken to concentration camps and ultimately killed.  Later bodies were left in mass graves in the Atacama.  Now widows and families scavenge the harsh terrain for any trace of loved ones that may remain; this tone of desperation is in stark contrast to the aspiration and hope for attainment of the universe.

Guzman is an intelligent filmmaker and is keen to mark the distinction between the sky and the ground; giving both stories an equal platform.  Guzman's interview with one widow, Violeta Barrios, is particularly wrenching in its honesty.

Clearly the notion and metaphor of astronomy is a clever one; many of those interviewed state how Chile needs a telescope to look into the ground of the desert to find its past; whereas the telescope itself is something looking towards the future.

Guzman shoots with a good eye when he looks upward, showing scenes of great mystery and magic in the stars whilst giving a look of another world on the Chilean landscape. 

A film that although the notion of a documentary may not appeal, it is certainly a film that values the time and commitment.

Nostalgia for the Light is out on Friday 13th July 2012 on limited release and is distributed by New Wave Films.

Jamie Garwood

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