The Pearl Button


Chile has 2670 miles of coastline, the largest archipelago in the world, volcanoes, glaciers and deserts. It was once the home of a seafaring indigenous population that lived off of the bounties of the sea. But, the country has gone through many upheavals, both natural and man-made, for hundreds of years and the water that once supplied the voice of the land needs to be heard again. Maestro documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzman brings us to that forbidding, beautiful land and the sky above it in “The Pearl Button.”


Laura's Review: B+

Patricio Guzmán, whose latest is a companion piece to his extraordinary last film, "Nostalgia for the Light," is some kind of cosmic, philosophical, naturalist historian with a keen talent for expressing his deeply humanist, spiritual ideas in cinematic terms. He returns to Chile's Atacama Desert and its astronomical observatories, but this time, instead of sand, he focuses on water to once again explore his country's mass slaughters. Chile has one of the longest coastlines in the world and Guzmán reflects on the waters that its indigenous people navigated fearlessly in canoes. Now they're mostly denied that right for safety reasons. He also reaches for the stars, considering water came to our planet from space, proposing that space might offer a future safe haven for those persecuted here. In the first half of his film, he traces the history of the five indigenous groups that largely succumbed to disease and worse when Europeans discovered their land. He connects them to the more recent 'disappeared' of Chile's political history via the button of the title, Jimmy Button having lost his identity after the native was taken to England, returning as a man in between cultures. Of the 1,200 to 1,400 who were dropped into the ocean tied to steel rails during Chile's military dictatorship, all that remains of one is a button. "The Pearl Button" doesn't quite live up to Guzmán's last, largely due to the sense that he is revisiting familiar territory and an abrupt segue between the two halves of the film. But this filmmaker's voice is distinct, his documentary artful and moving. Grade: