Latin American House Cine Forum screened Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia de la Luz

Nov 27, 2013 Comments Off on Latin American House Cine Forum screened Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia de la Luz by

By Vincent Nadeau

Last Thursday, the Latin American House Cine Forum* screened Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia de la Luz. Set in Chile’s Atacama desert, Guzmán’s documentary explores the country’s political past, juxtaposing the story of astronomers who observe the stars through the Atacama’s incredibly transparent sky with the quest of a group of women who desperately rummage through every corner of the desert, in the hope of finding remains of relatives who fell under Pinochet’s dictatorship. The parallel searches for cosmic origins and the desaparecidos are interconnected metaphors for the human search for meaning and continuity. The metaphorical nature of Guzmán’s documentary gives it a tremendous existentialist character, forcing us to question the meaning of life in a Blaise Pascal manner: ‘What is man in nature? Nothing in relation to the infinite, all in relation to nothing, a mean between nothing and everything’.

As is customary with the Cine Forum, a debate followed the screening. On this frosty London night, about 15 people gathered around a glass of vino to discuss the film. The discussion began with the theme of memory, with everybody agreeing that these women were looking for a memory which is no longer there. Shorty after, a few words were exchanged around the US-backed operation Condor. However, what most surprised everyone was that there were only women looking through the soil dryness for human remains. The sanity of these women was eventually questioned. There is indeed something  insane in digging up the desert, inch by inch, looking for a piece of memory. However, this exceptional perseverance also demonstrated that women tend to preserve a memory better than men do. Do women have a more biological relationship with memory? The documentary definitely gave a certain visual and aesthetic voice to the desaparecidos.

A specific passage of the film helped close this debate. In this passage, one of the women looking for the desaparecidos ultimately asks: what if the people who drove the trucks (Pinochet used old mining sites as concentration camps) as part of a military detachment dumping the bodies, spoke out in public? It would certainly help these women immensely in their quest for memory. This thought left the audience wondering on a more general level: what prevents people from saying what they have to say?

Nostalgia de la Luz is a documentary in which everything that seems separate becomes connected in unexpected ways. It genuinely touched everyone present that night.


*Cine Forum is a Latin American House cultural activity organised by Tierra Theatre. For more information visit


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