The recommended documentary of the month

“El Botón de Nácar” is the second part of a trilogy that began with “Nostalgia of Light” (2010) and how that film moves from the infinite of the universe to reflections on human existence and its relationship with memory.

In his previous documentary, the Chilean Patricio Guzmán proposes a trip to the past from the Atacama desert. There the archeologists meet who inquire about the pre-Columbian cultures; the widows who still look for the remains of their disappeared in dictatorship and the astronomers who search the sky in search of answers. “El Botón de Nácar” is armed in dialogue with this previous work and continues with the question about the past, this time from our relationship with water.

Guzmán moves from the water that astronomers have found in distant constellations to the long coast of the Chilean territory to be located in Patagonia and in the unfortunate destiny of the people who inhabited it. From the testimony of the last indigenous descendants of the south, the director builds the history of these peoples first in their sea life and powerful cosmogony, to later expose the brutality of colonization and extermination.

From there, Guzmán weaves a bridge to talk about life and death that is present in the ocean and connects with the disappeared thrown into the sea. In a manner consistent with his cinematography, Guzmán returns to the subject of human rights and realizes how even geography continues to claim by memory.

The impressive images of the film are the responsibility of Katell Djian’s photography – also present in “Nostalgia de la Luz” – and they have a level of beauty and richness that makes it essential to see this film on a big screen. From the detail plane to a piece of quartz from the Atacama desert, which is more than three thousand years old and where one can still distinguish a drop of water; even impressive satellite plans of the southern seas and the poetic images captured by astronomical observatories, manage to impress and move the viewer. This added to the beautiful compositions of Miranda and Tobar, create the highest moments of the film are those where the visual and sound composition do not require words to invite reflection.

As in “Nostalgia de la Luz” the voice of the director is what guides this journey. It is his reflections and experiences that give meaning to this discourse. His solemn and deliberate voice allows us to move through the material and understand connections that in another context would be difficult to make. This thinking out of Guzmán is complemented by testimonies from others such as Gabriela Paterito and Cristina Calderón-survivors of the Patagonian ethnic groups-the historian Gabriel Salazar and the poet Raúl Zurita, among others.

As in previous films, Patricio Guzmán asks himself questions of profound value and shares with the spectator the conclusions he has drawn about them. Perhaps what can make you uncomfortable, especially towards the end of the movie, is the underlining of your argument in your own voice and that of others. The images he presents are so powerful that they do not require emphasis, to ensure that the viewer can accompany his speech and construct his own reflections.

Source: Radio Universidad de Chile