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54th San Francisco International Film Festival at BAM/PFA

Thursday, April 28, 2011
6:15 p.m. Nostalgia for the Light
Patricio Guzmán (France/Chile/Germany, 2010)

Screening followed by Patricio Guzmán in Conversation with Jorge Ruffinelli

This event is part of our Afterimage series, The Films of Patricio Guzmán

(Nostalgia de la luz). For a man who has been making political films all his life, Nostalgia for the Light by Patricio Guzmán appears at first to be an aberration: an examination of the strangely beautiful work of astronomers using the mammoth telescopes in the remote highlands of Chile’s Atacama Desert. The images of heavenly bodies they see are millions of years old, their light reaching us only now. The telescopes are in a place so high and dry that no humidity exists whatsoever, nothing to interfere with the view of the heavens. The desert has no birds, no animals, no insects. But there is another side of the Atacama. Here is where the Pinochet dictatorship quietly established its biggest concentration camp. In an attempt to cover up its crimes, the military regime dumped the bodies of its critics by the thousands in this same desert in the 1970s. Just as assiduously as the astronomers search the heavens, relatives of the disappeared comb the desert searching for the remains of the victims, the scientists as detached and joyful in their pursuit as the relatives are impassioned and somber. We meet them both—although they never intersect with each other—on a seemingly similar quest: searching the past, looking for the light. Guzmán magically weaves the two together in one of his most touching, most thought-provoking films.

—Miguel Pendás

• Written by Guzmán. Photographed by Katell Djian. (90 mins)