Film Review: The Pearl Button

Patricio Guzmán has built up a reputation of being one of the most thoughtful and meditative documentary film makers over the last 40 odd years. His contemplative style continues into his output, only releasing a film every 4 or 5 years or so. However, as Nostalgia for the Light and Salvador Allende attest, they’re well worth waiting for. Guzmán’s new film, The Pearl Button, continues this happy trend.

The Pearl Button documents the settlement of Tierra del Fuego. Situated off the southernmost tip of Chile, the archipelago is in many ways its own separate entity. Staggeringly beautiful and equally dangerous at times, Guzmán traces its history back to the first peoples who populated the area, including The Yaghan. He speaks to some of the descendants of the original inhabitants and charts the destruction of the native peoples through colonisation and the equally notorious more recent use of the archipelago by the Chilean regime.

The Pearl Button once again plays on the regular themes in Guzmán’s films of memory and the historical past. The beginning is awe-inspiringly beautiful, as the climate, landscape and environment as Tierra del Fuego mesmerises on screen. By the end, this is transformed into something more ugly and depressing as the history of the genocide committed against the native peoples stains the beauty of the land. The Pearl Button is a spellbinding and meditative look at how memories and history inform our daily lives.

The Pearl Button is out in cinemas on Friday.

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