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Nostalgia for the Light

Taking us back to his homeland Chile, Patricio Guzmán manages to encompass the personal, political and historical in one visually stunning film. Heartbreaking and poetical, Nostalgia for the Light explores both ancient and recent historical moments, and interweaving the most extraordinary stories ensures we will not forget the horrific past of this beautiful nation.

In his latest documentary the acclaimed director Patricio Guzmán takes us on a trip to Chile’s Atacama Desert— a beautiful, dream-like place which offers astronomers and archaeologists worldwide all they could hope for.

As one of the driest places on earth, devoid of any living creatures and even clouds, the desert has unique qualities that make it an ideal place to explore the past.

It is Guzmán’s own childhood obsession with astronomy that shines through when we are introduced to the Atacama and it makes you feel like you’re there with him, exploring the desert for things that are larger than life and so beautiful it would not be possible to describe them without visuals. His narration is calm and peaceful, exploring, analysing, poetic almost to the point of mesmerising.

But once he has shown us the beauty of the desert we are also being introduced to its hidden dark side. While some search the desert’s sky for stars and its grounds for history, others are searching the desert for bodies.

Every day mothers, sisters, wives and daughters from men who disappeared during Pinochet’s brutal regime gather in the desert to sift through the sands, looking for the little bits that might remain of their loved ones. A near impossible task, both mentally as well as physically, but their love and lack of closure sees them through, day in and day out.

Sometimes these women are ‘lucky’ and find complete bone structures – something to bury with dignity in order to bring the excruciating waiting, wishing and hoping to an end. However, more often they merely get to sift through the sands for days on end, finding a partial finger bone if anything.

What Guzmán presents to us in Nostalgia for the Light is an area of calm and beauty, interwoven with the evidence of atrocities that should not be forgotten. This juxtaposition makes the truth more hard hitting and you should be prepared to be engulfed by a variety of strong emotions and thoughts that will stay with you long after you have left the cinema.

For more information and screenings, visit the film’s website.


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Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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