Chile’s long coastline, the largest archipelago in the world, provides the setting for The Pearl Button (2015), Patricio Guzmán poetic visual essay that brings together the voices of the indigenous pre-Columbian Patagonian people and the water, glaciers, and mountains of their land. You can watch on Fandor or watch on Amazon.
Guzmán explores the notion that water has memory, that water has a voice, and this film channels that voice. Guzmán addresses Chile’s history of violence from the Spanish colonists who destroyed a unique maritime culture to the 1973 coup d’état that overthrew Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government and established a right-wing military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet. Over the course of sixteen years the dictatorship left over three thousand people dead or missing.
The pearl button that gives the film its title works as a metaphorical object, representing the traces left by the victims of Pinochet’s military dictatorship. While situated in Chile’s history and post-colonial critique, Guzmán shares with us the universal wisdom that comes to us through water, if we listen, this sublime work of visual storytelling gently refocuses our attention to human relations and the necessity for questioning and redefining our perception of reality. I have not been touched by a film in a long time the way this film touched me.