El botón de nácar – The Pearl Button

Director Patricio Guzmán made one of my favourite films of 2012 – Nostalgia de la Luz (Nostalgia for the Light), in which he examined murky aspects of Chile’s history.

El botón de nácar does the same thing, but over a much broader timespan of subjugation and dictatorship. This time, instead of the desert holding the secrets, it’s water. Guzmán gently prods around at why Chile, with its thousands of miles of coastline, has an almost non-existent day-to-day relationship with the ocean. It explores the colonisation and virtual extermination of the indigenous, water-faring civilisations of Chile’s south, and makes connections with Pinochet’s desaparecidos and the sea.

It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking story which makes a good companion piece to Guzmán’s earlier documentary, and features some absolutely beautiful cinematography.


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