To coincide with the theatrical release of his latest film Nostalgia for the Light, BFI Southbank will be featuring work by the Chilean documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán throughout July.
The list of events kicks off with a screening of his latest documentary Nostalgia for the Light on Friday 13 July. This screening will be followed by a Q&A with Guzmán himself. Nostalgia for the Light (2011) is a personal documentary which combines astronomy, geology, history and politics.
It begins with Guzmán’s childhood obsession with the stars – he takes to the Chilean Atacama desert to observe the skies, and there finds scientists searching for the origins of the universe, historians seeking evidence of ancient man, and women scouring the desert for the remains of loved ones who disappeared during Pinochet’s regime. Combining these very different stories together he creates a beautiful but very sad documentary which looks at the horrific events of Chile’s past and how the effects of it are still haunting people now.
Guzmán first garnered international attention in the late 1970s with his documentary The Battle of Chile (1975-1978), which shows the last year of the Popular Unity government of Chilean President Salvador Allende, leading up to the military coup d’état of 1973.
Despite being one of many Chileans forced into exile under Pinochet’s regime, Guzmán returned to his core subject of Chile time and again, painting portraits of the two men at the heart of the coup d’état.
Quite a few films in the BFI’s selection too focus on Chile and the recovery of collective memory. Guzmán’s belief that ‘a country without documentary films is like a family without a photo album’ helps explain his preoccupation with his native country. In Chile, Obstinate Memory (1997) for example Guzmán returns to Chile to screen The Battle of Chile to people who had never see seen it because it had been banned by the dictatorship some twenty years before. The filmmaker uses his own documentary as a means to disclose shocking revelations to a younger generation whose own national history has been hidden from them.
Guzmán at the BFI:
Patricio Guzmán Study Day: The Battle of Chile – Yesterday and Today
Patricio Guzmán Study Day will focus on The Battle of Chile, offering participants a critical insight into the production of the film and its historical context. Michael Chanan and special guests will also consider the heritage of the ousted President Salvador Allende, and the session will include a screening of Chanan’s recent film, Three Short Films About Chile.
Sat 14 July 11:00 – 17:00 NFT3
The Battle of Chile / La batalla de Chile
A fertile mixture of direct cinema, investigative reportage, and political analysis, the footage for The Battle of Chile was smuggled out immediately after the coup of 11 September 1973, and edited in Cuba at the film institute, ICAIC, the results appearing between 1976 and 1979. Instead of a chronological record, the three parts each recount the events from different perspectives. Part One focuses on the growing confrontation between Allende’s supporters and the increasingly violent rebellion of the middle classes which gave the military their excuse of ‘restoring order’. Part Two tracks the deterioration of Allende’s position following the attempted coup of 29 June 1973, while Part Three is a coda which documents the loose coalition of workers and citizens who respond to right-wing initiatives by grassroots self-organisation in defence of Allende’s visionary politics.
Pt 1: The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie 1975. Sun 15 July 16:00 NFT2 & Tue 17 July 20:40 NFT2
Pt 2: The Coup d’État 1976. Sun 15 July 18:20 NFT2 & Wed 18 July 18:30 NFT2
Pt 3: The Power of the People 1978. Sun 15 July 20:40 NFT2 & Fri 20 July 18:30 NFT2
The Southern Cross / La cruz del sur + Ile de Robinson Crusoe
First, a visually rich and reflective exploration of the role of religion in Latin America from pre-Columbian myth to liberation theology. Then one of Guzmán’s most personal films, a video diary of his trip to the island 600 miles off the coast of Chile which as a child he assumed to be a fictional creation.
Tue 17 July 18:10 NFT2 & Sat 21 July 20:30 NFT2
A Village Fading Away / Les Barrieres de la Solitude/Pueblo en vilo + Obstinate Memory / Chile, la Memoria Obstinada
First, the workings of tradition and shared memory in the small Mexican town of San José de Gracia, seen through the eyes of the Mexican historian Luis González y González, who was born and raised there – a micro-history revealing much about the larger historical forces at work. Then, in one of his most moving films, Guzmán returns to his homeland with a copy of The Battle of Chile, which has never been seen there, to find some of the characters in the film who survived the dictatorship’s violence. A profoundly self-reflexive work of remembrance, filmed with the utmost tact, the experience is nevertheless a painful revisitation of the past for those who remember, and when he screens the film to a student audience, a shocking revelation to a younger generation presented with a history which has been hidden from them.|
Sun 22 July 15:40 NFT2 & Wed 25 July 20:40 NFT2
The Pinochet Case / Le cas Pinochet
Guzmán’s dissection of Pinochet’s regime of terror was filmed in the months after his arrest in London in October 1998. The mode of the film is both analytic and testimonial, counterpointing legal explanations and arguments, the chronicle of Pinochet’s detention, and deeply moving accounts by victims. Concluding with Pinochet’s return to Chile and the new legal battles he will now face there, the real protagonist of this film is the power of solidarity.
Sun 22 July 18:20 NFT2 & Thu 26 July 20:40 NFT2
Guzmán’s tribute to Allende is not so much a biography as a personal homage to a man of whom he says that he ‘marked my life’. A scrapbook of family photos and archive footage, with contributions from friends, family and followers, the film unfurls a portrait of a complex personality, the idealism of his political ideas, excitement of his electoral campaigns, euphoria of his first months in office, and the tragedy of his demise.
Mon 23 July 20:40 NFT2 & Sat 28 July 16:00 NFT2
Nostalgia for the Light / Nostalghia de la luz
For description see article on top.
Friday 13 – Thursday 26 July