One of the first things you are going to find out about me is that I am Chilean. I tell everyone, all the time. I have almost become more Chilean now that I no longer live there, but it is probably because the distance allows me to analyse Chile in a more objective way.
It was living here in the UK when I first heard about Patricio Guzmán, a Chilean
documentary filmmaker. A Chilean friend who also lives in the UK mentioned him in passing and told me all about his work. It was interesting to me, as he appeared to deal with the two biggest issues in Chile, the second one being the Coup d’état.
Shortly after being exposed to Guzmán’s work, I was asked by my tutors at the Manchester School of Art to introduce Nostalgia for the Light to the rest of the filmmaking students. Life is full of coincidences like that. I was happy to do it, but as I was speaking about it in front of everyone I realised how textbook -like my knowledge was. And I grew up there!
I was born in ’89, the beginning of a new era in Chile. My working class family struggled as most working class families did, but they were very fortunate to never have experienced the horrors of the Pinochet‘s military government directly. The ’88 plebiscite changed Chile forever. Pinochet was no longer in power, but the damage was already done as Chile continued to be divided, politically and culturally, going beyond social status. This is Chile’s number one problem.
Patricio Guzmán’s approach to these issues is perhaps the best way to approach them. His documentaries are tackled in a rather poetic way, making them very effective as it proves the problems trascend politics. It should not be a case of whether you are conservative or liberal, rich or poor, educated or ignorant or whether your family was affected directly by the derranged military government or not. It is an issue that concerns everyone and should be accessible to everyone. This is why Patricio’s work is important. The human approach to these horrors trascend everything else. His works are a testament to the power of film.
Nobody talked about politics in my family and we only needed to know the basics: democracy is good, tyranny is bad and money is a necessity. These are the ingredients for conformity, forcing yourself to play the game even if you don’t like the rules. Patricio Guzmán has taught me more than just facts and has revealed more than buried secrets, he has made me care about the division that tears our country apart everyday, politically and socially.
Recently, Home organised a preview screening for The Pearl Button, followed by a Q&A with the man himself. This is where I was able to ask him if we could ever fix this problem of estrangement in Chile and his answer put my worries to rest. We must work hard to dig up the truth. The memories that had been hidden from us, away from reality. Only memory can unite a country. The goal is to move forward by remembering the past.
As an external project, we will be submitting a short film for CineSpace. I am using Guzmán’s approach to documentary to explore the spiritual drive behind space exploration and how it it uses science as a tool for emotional discovery. We are hoping to use resources such as poetic imagery, thought-provoking voice-overs and minimalistic soundtrack.
I will be blogging about that project soon.