top of page


What I owe Chris Marker

Chris Marker knocked on the door of my house in Santiago de Chile in May 1972.
Opening the door I ran into a very thin man who spoke Spanish with a Martian accent.
"I'm Chris Marker," he told me.
I moved back a few inches and stared at him without saying anything.
Some images of his film “La Jetée” paraded through my head, which I had seen at least 15 times.
We shook hands and I told him:
"Go ahead".

Chris Marker entered the room and waited for me to invite him to sit down.
He didn't say anything. But I thought I could tell from his worried look that he had misparked the space vehicle in which he had landed.

From the first moment Chris projected an alien image that was with him forever. He had a sharp face, slightly oriental eyes, a shaved skull, and Dr. Spock ears. He separated the sentences with unexpected silences and hissed a little, pressing his thin lips together, as if all the terrestrial languages were foreign to him. He seemed very tall but he wasn't. He was dressed in a way that cannot be described. He was like an elegant workman.

"I was interested in your film," he told me.
I was invaded by a feeling of fear, a mixture of insecurity and respect.
My wife entered the room to greet him along with my 2-year-old daughter, Andrea.
I had recently finished “El Primer Año”, my first documentary feature film about the first twelve months of Salvador Allende's government.
"I have come to Chile with the intention of filming a cinematographic chronicle," he confessed to me.
I was very nervous sitting in front of him, while my wife offered him a cup of tea which he readily accepted.
“Since you have already made it, I prefer to buy it from you to exhibit it in France.”

Forty years have passed since this conversation and only very recently I discovered that it marked my life forever, since my modest career as a novice filmmaker took a huge turn from that moment.

Inside his suitcases, Chris Marker took a 16-millimeter master of the film as well as the magnetic soundtracks.

Months later he sent me the promotional brochures for “The First Year” and wrote me telling me the details of the premiere at the Studio De La Harpe in Paris. I also received a chronicle from the magazine Le Temps Modernes (founded by Sartre) and directed by Claude Lanzmann.

Chris Marker not only wrote a good review of the play, but also directed an exceptional voice over for it. First, he asked me for permission to lighten the film (it was 110 minutes long). Of course I said yes. The truth is that it was a repetitive film. I was never happy with the setup. It has exciting sequences. But surely he had ten minutes or even more to spare.

He also made an introduction (approximately 8 minutes) where he told in a few words the history of Chile, in particular the history of the labor movement led by Allende. It was a montage of still photos, in black and white, that Raymon Depardon had recently taken in Chile. The story, written by him, was a marvel of synthesis. The music, based on atonal strings, was dreamlike. This short film was glued to the film. When it concluded, the credits of "The First Year" began.

Explaining the film was necessary, since there was a large audience that knew nothing about Chile. However, there was another much worse problem. In 1972, the public did not accept subtitled documentaries. Therefore, they had to be doubled. Chris called all his Parisian friends to do the voices of the Chileans. They were great figures of the time: François Périer as narrator, Delphine Seyrig as a bourgeois woman, Françoise Arnoul and Florence Delay to do the working voices. He even used the voice of the film's distributor: Anatole Dauman (Argos Films) and called on the famous cartoonist Folon to make the poster.

I could not believe it.

This unexpected event gave me a feeling of unreality. Something unimaginable was happening. Because “El Primer Año” was a humble film (in 16 millimeters), without synchronous sound, with a small budget, which had no other ambitions than to show the joy of the workers, laborers and miners during Allende's first year. It could not have more horizon than 6 copies in 35 millimeters (which were made in Alex in Buenos Aires) and that it be exhibited for a couple of weeks in some Chilean theaters. However, thanks to Chris, "The First Year" was shown in many cities in France, Belgium and Switzerland; he won the Nantes festival and won the FIPRESCI prize in Mannheim.  

I was always in Santiago. Nor dream of a trip to Europe. Neither me nor Chris had the money.

A year later (at the end of 1972) my situation changed radically... In Chile, the right managed to create a sensation of chaos in most cities thanks to the Chilean opponents themselves and the economic aid of the government of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. A situation of uncertainty gripped the country.

One morning I was sitting in the Parque Forestal accompanied by the team from “La Batalla de Chile” [1], pondering our situation. “What to do?”… was the question we all asked ourselves… We had been fired from the Chile Films company, where we were preparing a feature film… eight months of work!… The company, like others, could not resist the strike October organized by the right. Because of this wildcat strike, the government banned imports of raw film and other products.

Looking for a solution (quite uncertain in practice) it occurred to me to write a letter to Chris Marker.

I still have this letter. I have selected the final paragraph:

“As has happened other times, I have not been able to answer your letters immediately… Our political situation is confused and the country is experiencing a pre-civil war situation, which causes tension in us… The class struggle occurs everywhere. In each factory, in each peasant property, in each town, the workers raise their voices and demand workers' control in their workplaces... The bourgeoisie will use all its resources. It will use bourgeois legality. It will use its own union organizations with the economic support of Nixon… We must make a film of all this!… An extensive report made in the factories, fields, mines. An investigative film whose main settings are big cities, towns, the coast, the desert. Muralist film composed of many chapters whose protagonists are the people, their leaders, on the one hand, and the oligarchy, its leaders and their connections with the Washington government, on the other. Analysis film. Film of masses and individuals. Fast-paced film made from daily events, whose final duration is unpredictable... Film in a free way, that uses reportage, essay, still photography, the dramatic structure of fiction, the sequence shot, all used according to the circumstances, as reality proposes… However, WE DO NOT HAVE virgin material. Due to the blockade of the United States, imports can take a year. To get this material we have thought of you… Excuse me for the length and, please, answer me with absolute frankness. I fully trust your judgement. A hug, Patrick. Santiago de Chile, November 14, 1972″.

A week later a telegram arrived from Paris:
"I will do what i can. Greetings. Chris."

Approximately a month later, a box arrived at the Santiago Airport that came directly from the Kodak factory (Rochester), which customs allowed to enter because it did not entail any cost for the state. Chris Marker pooled the resources in Europe and placed the order directly with the US factory. The box contained 43 thousand feet of film  (approximately 14 hours) in 16mm and black and white [2], plus 134 magnetic tapes for Nagra.

It was the second moment of glory for us thanks to Chris Marker.

The five members of the “La Batalla Chile” team couldn't believe it when we looked at these shiny cans (which looked like mirrors). We had never seen new cans as we had always used old reels with the expiration date on the material. It was also the first time we saw the new cardboard boxes of the magnetic tapes. It was necessary to start filming immediately with the utmost caution (in order not to run out of stock prematurely).

We made a diagram where the conflict zones appeared. We drew it on one of the walls of our office. It was a great "theoretical map" that occupied half of our space. It was written with black markers on sheets of white cardstock. It enumerated the economic, political and ideological problems. Each one of them was opened in a second key: the control of production, the control of distribution, the relations of production, the ideological struggle in information, the planning of the battle... This scheme, without a doubt, must have provoked More than one smile on Chris. In a later letter, he made me see that it was impossible to film so many things. However, what Chris was unaware of was that this ambitious "theorizing" only had one reason: to avoid spending the film too quickly, so as not to look bad in front of him.

After the coup and after being imprisoned for two weeks in the national stadium, I was finally able to fly to France. It was an exciting moment. The ticket was paid for by my old Spanish classmates (from the Madrid Film School)… Chris was in a room at Orly airport, almost completely alone. He looked at me with great curiosity, he put his hands in the form of a visor, he changed places. He couldn't recognize me, since I had cut my beard.  

We drive to Paris in a new car. We arrive at a very luxurious house where we have lunch. The atmosphere was elegant. There were beautiful women (perhaps movie people), Chris was a great seducer. But without a doubt he was the most important Martian in the meeting. My French was deplorable. For years I could hardly ever really understand what I was hearing. My simulation skills increased to a kind of perfection. After lunch we went to return the car (which was borrowed). We finally took the subway, with my bags in tow. We finally arrived at a cheap pension. We said our goodbyes and Chris rode away on a second-hand motorcycle.

He began a long pilgrimage to get money. We dined at Fréderic Rossif's house together with Simone Signoret. We dined at the home of actress Florence Delay (Joan of Arc, Robert Bresson). We spoke with dozens of personalities to be able to assemble and finish "The Battle of Chile". We met several times with Saul Yelin, a kind of brilliant ICAIC diplomat [3] to tell him about our objectives. Thus several months passed. I stayed for many weeks at the house of another of Chris's friends, in Place Saint Sulpice.  

Finally Alfredo Guevara, president of ICAIC, approved the project from Havana and we were able to travel to Cuba to finish “The Battle of Chile”. For a long time Chris had excellent relations with the Cubans, which undoubtedly originated from two magnificent documentaries about the island: “Cuba Sí” and “The Battle of the Ten Million”. I was lucky enough to take advantage of this good relationship to go to Havana. It was a crucial moment because after 1974 relations between Chris and the Cubans abruptly cooled down after the premiere of “El Fondo del Aire es Rojo”, where Chris criticizes the regime in Havana.

I moved to Cuba for six months and ended up living in Havana for six years: the time that the staging of “La Batalla” lasted together with Pedro Chaskel. I returned to Paris for the first time in 1975 to premiere the first part, which was scheduled for the Cannes Fortnight in 1975. Federico Elton (the film's head of production) and I dropped off a copy at the “SLON” office. , the cooperative founded by Chris (formerly ISKRA).

The following year Federico Elton and I repeated the same operation: we premiered the second part in the Fortnight of 1976 and at the same time we deposited another copy in SLON addressed to Chris... But we never got a response. We never received any notes, letters, messages or phone calls about the film from him. For months we wondered why he didn't. For years I have wondered the same thing.

It must be said that we lived in a very politicized time and Chris's group was part of very radical artists and intellectuals from the left. My movie was not. On the contrary, "The Battle of Chile" is pluralistic and is not dedicated to any other militancy than that of the Chilean dream (the struggle of a people without weapons), the utopia of a people in its broadest perspective, which I I could see with my eyes and feel with my body inside that vibrant Chile with which I identified myself and identify myself today. Actually, for a long time I felt that it was difficult for me to be recognized in France with my direct cinema work, the first in Chile and one of the few in the world that shows step by step the agony of a revolutionary people. Apart from the famous critic Louis Marcorelles nobody got to the bottom of the film. Louis Marcorelles understood my search for an artist, the novelty of my way of making films, the historical impact of my work and who accompanied me with his wise reviews in Le Monde for the premiere of the first two parts in Cannes. Apart from him, I felt a great silence from my French colleagues at the time and for a long time. Meanwhile, "The Battle of Chile" went around the world.  

I never met Chris again and I never had direct contact with him in the last decades, except for a nice meeting at the San Francisco Festival in 1993. In the last 12 years we lived in the same city and I followed his work very closely. It must be said that he always lived  very secluded and surrounded by a certain mystery.

At this moment, in the Père Lachaise cemetery, in the last tribute that those closest to you pay you, all that remains is for me to tell you: GOODBYE, GREAT FRIEND, HAVE A GOOD TRIP, THANK YOU FROM MY HEART FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE GIVEN ME. For my life it has been the best. OVERCOME!

PG. Paris August 2, 2012.

[1] The team was made up of Jorge Müller, cameraman; José Bartolomé, assistant director; Bernardo Menz, sound engineer; Federico Elton, head of production and Patricio Guzmán, director.

[2] It was 19,000 feet from Plus-X; 14,000 feet from Four-X; 10,000 feet from Four-X.

[3] ICAIC, Cuban Institute of Art and the Cinematographic Art Industry.





FRED: What is the relationship of this film with the previous "Nostalgia for the Light"?

PATRICIO: I think it's a diptych. The first is located at the north end and the second at the opposite end. I had the idea of doing something in Patagonia and maybe the third one I'm going to do on the Andes mountain range, which is the backbone of Chile and America. But so far I don't have any concrete ideas nor do I know if I will be able to do it.

FRED: I was struck by the beauty of the introduction.

PATRICIO: We have filmed on two sailboats commanded by Keri Lee Pashuk and Greg Landreth, perhaps the best sailors in the area, who have made more than 17 trips to Antarctica. They took us to the most impressive glaciers, to the great mountain ranges of Patagonia. It is a true labyrinth of islands. We have sailed many kilometers from Seno del Almirantazgo to the Beagle Channel.

FRED: I really like how you've reconstructed the map of Chile and how it unrolls during the sequence.

PATRICIO: My painter friend Emma Malig has been inventing maps of unreal continents for a long time, which she calls lands of “wandering”, lands of shipwrecks, lands of exile. In my film “Salvador Allende” I filmed one of its imaginary territories for the first time. Now I asked him for a 15 meter long scale map of Chile. It is like a prehistoric animal of ocher color. It is a unique and admirable work.

FRED: In my opinion all good movies always have two voices: one is the literal voice and the second is the abstract and metaphorical voice. I think that in this case the real film exists between the passage from one to the other… Can you give me an example of how these two voices in your film were connected?

PATRICIO: When I'm in the montage and I finish a sequence of two or three minutes, I immediately write a spontaneous text for the voice on a blank sheet of paper. I make some phrases and then I record them on the image. In such a way that this completely improvised voice is always indirect and other times informative. I'm done with it without further reflection. I then proceed to the next sequence. There is a kind of intuition in the story that I want to narrate that already exists within me. Describing what I have kept inside of me after so long seems easy to me. Of course in the end you have to correct and polish.

FRED: Why are you obsessed with the Pinochet coup stories? Why do you think it's so important, since you come back to it every time?

PATRICIO: I can't get away from that moment. It is as if I had witnessed in my childhood the burning of my own house. And that all my storybooks, my toys, my objects, my comics, had burned before my eyes. I feel like a child who cannot forget that fire, which for me happened recently. The elapsed time depends on each person. In Chile, when I ask my friends if they remember the coup d'état, many of them tell me that it is already far away, that a long time has passed. On the other hand, no time has passed for me. It is as if it happened the year before, the month before, or the week before. It is as if I were living trapped in an amber capsule, like those insects of ancient times that have been fixed forever inside a drop… Then some of my friends tell me that I “live in a kind of trap”. I look at them and I look at them and I see that most of them are older than me, fatter than me, more stooped than me. Then I can verify that I feel fully alive in my capsule, in my trap.

FRED: Do you think that the public and Chileans want to forget these questions? Is that for you a motivation, that is to say, that you should never forget?

PATRICIO: The youngest are hungry to know everything that happened. Your grandparents, your parents, your teachers, for the most part have not told you anything with the true details. That is why they have a hunger for a past that they do not know exactly. They also belong to a generation that is not afraid, they are open to understand what has happened. There is a strong student movement in Chile. I interviewed some of their leaders (Gabriel Boric, Giorgio Jackson). For them, Salvador Allende's project was a model… For me, “modern” Chile is quite false. This "modern" Chile is much older than the Chile I knew as a student. “Modern” Chile is a country where homosexuals have no rights, where abortion is prohibited, where people live under the Pinochet Constitution.

FRED: And how do you explain this?

PATRICIO: The right has maintained a Constitution that has many pitfalls. Until very recently, the votes of the democratic opposition could never exceed the votes of the right. Now that article has finally been removed from the Constitution. The country will become much more interesting, pluralistic, democratic. Salvador Allende was precisely that: an open, democratic and libertarian man.

FRED: Why has it taken so long for the Pinochet Constitution not to be changed?

PATRICIO: Pinochet left power pushed by a popular movement. This agitation that existed in the popular neighborhoods, the universities, the high schools, the center of Santiago, etc., was so powerful that the CIA ordered Pinochet to organize a referendum to neutralize this possible rebellion. Pinochet organized it and lost it. The next day professional politicians came to power, who made a pact of silence with the military. I am answering you in a very schematic way because it is a very long topic.

FRED: This happened because the military was involved?

PATRICIO: The army has never ceased to be involved in Chilean affairs until today. It is the main force. The idea of this pact of silence probably came from the influence that Felipe González had in the transition process. The pact that was made in Spain after Franco's death was to talk about everything except historical memory and mass graves. In Chile, the popular mass that fought against the dictatorship was removed from power. Control was taken by the center-left parties. But this "left" is a left that has been greatly diluted until today. It is true that 40 percent of the crimes of the dictatorship have been judged. But the rest is still missing. The civilians involved in the dictatorship have hardly been touched. Deep down, Chile is a big lonely island where people work hard, make a lot of effort, get up very early, sometimes the employees have only one suit that the lady irons every night and they go out of their way to belong to a middle class where they don't there is happiness. I think the coup will last for a century. It is an island without the right to strike, without freedom of the press, with a church that meddles in the affairs of the state. When I was young, the church in Chile was one of the most tolerant on the continent. That is why I think that the true republican “modernity” is far behind and not ahead.

FRED: In your current film, does the sea have the same function as the desert in your previous film?

PATRICK: I think so. What is solid in the old movie is liquid in the new one.

FRED: Bodies are found in both places… Are they two cemeteries? Does this have a literal or metaphysical function in both works?... I think it's a metaphor.

PATRICIO: In both senses. I like to work with metaphor to distance the documentary from conventional media and because it is a very rich narrative instrument that provokes reflection in people. But there is also a "literal function" because natural cemeteries existed. The first option to make the bodies disappear was the desert, then the craters of the volcanoes and finally the ocean, tying the bodies to a railway track so that they would sink without leaving a trace.

FRED: Is the person you interviewed a pilot?

PATRICIO: He is a former mechanic for PUMA helicopters. It was Judge Juan Guzmán who gave me the clue. The magistrate's reflection was as follows: approximately one hundred bodies have been found in the desert, where are the others?... There are two possibilities: at the bottom of the sea or in the craters of volcanoes. They searched the sea and the judge ordered Inspector Vignolo to locate the rails on the Quintero coast. On one of the rails they found a shirt button. This rail is in the Villa Grimaldi museum. Judge Guzmán thinks that further out in the ocean more rails could be found. If there were a large underwater ship, a deep search could be made on the great seabeds and it is certain that many more would be found.

FRED: Who is the poet Raúl Zurita?

PATRICIO: For me, he is one of the best poets in Chile today. He is a brilliant, extraordinary creator. I really like it when you say that the military are cowards. He gave me the example of Achilles, of the Trojan War and of Hector's corpse, which was returned to the Trojans because it was a matter of military honour: to feel pity for the defeated adversary.

FRED: There are some elements in your film that are between fiction and documentary because you asked people to do certain things. And there is a true staging as in a fiction film. Why did you do it?

PATRICIO: I have done the reconstruction of the rails with the bodies because I had read it in a book by a journalist (Javier Rebolledo) who had done a very detailed investigation of this. I spoke with the author, who explained these hidden facts to me. For me, it was chilling to see the doll ready, ready to be thrown into the sea, because it looks like a real corpse. It also shocks me to think that behind all this there was a sizeable organization to make 1,400 people disappear. If nine bodies were on each flight, it means that there were many missions. There were also launches from ships. There were soldiers who appeared at night in a port and forced the skipper of a fishing boat to load "packages" with bodies to throw them into the sea. This also happened in lakes and rivers.

FRED: What happens when you show your films in Chile?

PATRICIO: There are people who are interested. I have an audience that knows my films. There must be about five thousand people. But no channel broadcasts them. It happened only once. They showed “Nostalgia de la Luz” at one in the morning and with the reels changed. They made excuses and had to repeat the broadcast, but at almost the same time.

"The Pearl Button"

Chile, that memorial archipelago.

The filmmaker Patricio Guzmán films the story with brio

of his country, with all the violence and his poetry.

Jacques Mandelbaum



          Since his expatriation (first to Cuba, then to Spain and then to France) due to Augusto Pinochet's coup d'état in 1973, the Chilean Patricio Guzmán has not stopped documenting the contemporary history of his country: the trilogy "The Battle of Chile" (1973-1979), made with the participation of Chris Marker, "El Caso Pinochet" (2001) or "Salvador Allende" (2004), are made up of titles of films that speak to moviegoers, but also to all those who have an interest in Latin America, of the bloody dictatorships on this continent during the cold war.


         For Guzmán himself, this tireless concern for the history of his country was undoubtedly, for him as an exile, a way of getting into the course of a history, both intimate and national, from which he was violently uprooted.


          The spirit of exile.


          Who can ever say, at least if they have not lived it in their own flesh, what is this feeling of exile? This brutal tearing away from oneself, this searing suffering of no longer being able to inhabit the world for which one was destined, that habit of learning to live eternally outside of oneself. This break, however, can reveal a bright phase: the distancing of nationalism, the discovery of the world and of oneself as otherness, the celebration that life is universal and pluralistic. If one sticks to what his cinema shows, one might think that Patricio Guzmán has recently entered that luminous, soft, peaceful phase of existence in the diaspora. It seems that the spirit of exile inspires him more than oppresses him, giving him a different way of looking at the world.


          Thus, after “Nostalgia de la Luz” (2010), a documentary masterpiece, made after six years of silence, Guzmán, almost 70 years old, stood up suddenly to film not only the things themselves, in their supposed identity, but also the things between them, in their sinuous and invisible relationships that keep them united to the world, between the memory of the dictatorship, the astronomical search and the archeology of the indigenous civilization.


          We are then back in Chile, where Guzmán films, but in a Chile not only in political and historical terms, but also in geographical, anthropological, poetic, and cosmic terms. From the cosmic to the cosmological there is only one step, which Guzmán crosses today with his new film “El Button de Nácar”, which turns out to be as magnificent as the previous one.


          This button, a casual object of a documentary fable, where the film is going to find the tragically torn thread takes us very far south, to Patagonia, to the antipodes of Atacama desert, where “Nostalgia de la Luz” was developed. There, at the extreme tip of Latin America, the conglomerate of the largest archipelago in the world is drawn, with its bluish, frozen, sublime and extreme Antarctic landscapes; there are also the waters of indigenous memory and colonizing power, two conceptions of the world oriented, one towards respect for the world and life, the other towards the conquest of power and the depletion of resources. It is at this crossroads that the director stages a fluid and symphonic film. It opposes a forgotten indigenous cosmogony to the violence of the West that advances from destruction to destruction.


          Alchemy between science and poetry.


         All this happens concretely through stories of characters, places, photographs and  a subtle thought that unites them. One story among others: the Jemmy Button, the native seduced by a mother-of-pearl button and brought to London in 1830 by Robert FitzRoy, commander of the British Royal Navy who mapped that region and paved the way for colonization. They teach him the language of the Queen Mother, dress him properly, instill good manners in him, make him a gentleman, then return him to his place. This is evidently the beginning of the end for their civilization, a business that cost the West the price of a mother-of-pearl button. That same type of button is found on the seabed very close, in the surroundings, agglutinated with the mollusks that colonized the rails on which, in Pinochet's time, the opponents were tied to drown them better.


          Between these two buttons, the film tells us the story of a continuous extermination, but it also gives the profile of a vision of the brilliant world, conceived by men disguised as spirits ( amazing photographs of the Austrian Martin Gusinde) who thought that the dead transform into stars. This is complemented by testimonies from a few survivors (Cristina Calderón, the last representative of the Yagán ethnic group), from a philosopher (Gabriel Salazar), from a poet (Raúl Zurita), from an artist (Ema Malig).


          Just like the murdered indigenous people who were nomads, on the edge of the water that preserves their memory, just like the murdered indigenous people, just like the crucified oceanic people of the Pinochet era, transfigured In mother-of-pearl shellfish, Patricio Guzmán invents for this film an alchemy that reconciles science and poetry, dreams and consciousness. As if he wanted to pay homage in turn to the most filmmaker of philosophers, Gastón Bachelard, who had titled his fascinating other written in 1942 as follows: “Water and dreams. Essay on the imagination of matter”.




Jacques Mandelbaum



          Photochemistry of a disappeared town.


          Patricio Guzmán: It is a strong enchainment within reach of the entrance of the film under the sign of water. It shows the planet, the photographic traces of the disappeared indigenous people and the water, which is both the stuff our planet is made of and which was the way of life of those indigenous people from the extreme south of the continent, who barely know each other, Contrary to those of the north. They deserve to be named: the Kawéskar, the Selknam, the Aonikent, the Aush, the Yámanas.


          It is an Austrian, Martin Gusinger, who has marvelously photographed them between 1900 and 1913.

It mattered to me to show those photos, which are found throughout the film, because they show who these people are, their incredible softness, their beliefs and their cosmogony, painted on their own bodies and that they remain a mystery despite the interpretations that have been made about them.

These photos also bear witness to the last phase of their collective life. Twenty years later it is the definitive end of that world. An entire people died of hunger, cold, disease after their encounter with the colonizers of the country. Today there are 19 survivors of that town, some of whom I filmed. Martin Gusinde has photographed the indigenous people in the best possible way.


          Of the possibility of hydraulic poetry.

          Patricio Guzmán: One of my characters is called Claudio Mercado, he is an anthropologist and a musician. He is a specialist in the singing of the indigenous people. He applied their way of singing to imitate water. This is very extrange. When I met him for the first time we talked about the indigenous people and suddenly he told me... "I can sing the sound of water"... Then he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and launched that sequence of very strange and very beautiful sounds that surprised me. He is an extraordinary character who gives concerts of traditional songs and who is successful in a sector of the youth. I cared to film him again, but at the edge of a stream. Adopting this indigenous custom, he is the only one who can, in his own way, restore a sound to those silent photographs.


          The ocean murder.


          Patricio Guzmán: The indigenous dead and the dead of Pinochet. This analogy did not exist at first. Two visits to the museum have revealed it to me. The first to the Punta Arenas museum where I went to see the photos of the indigenous people. It is here that I became aware of the story of Jemmy Button, that indigenous man who agreed to travel to England in exchange for a mother-of-pearl button. A year later he returned transformed into a Martian for his people. That story was for me the image that announced the death of that culture. The second visit was to the Villa Grimaldi museum in Santiago: here I saw one of the rails with a button attached, attached, which surely belonged to one of the prisoners tied to that same rail. The connection with the other button (the one with mother-of-pearl) was made in my head and the film was built on this relationship.


          Memory of water, word of fire.


        Patricio Guzmán: Raúl Zurita is an immense poet. Without a doubt the possible follower of Neruda. He is a poet who has written a large part of his work in relation to the ocean and the Andes mountain range. He is an enlightened man. He is sitting in front of you but he talks about another world, he belongs to another dimension. In times of the dictatorship, he has been imprisoned and later he has intentionally put his life in danger by fasting and bodily injuries from which he still has sequelae. He is an epic fighter.



bottom of page