Paris-based production-distribution-sales company Pyramide Intl. is bringing on to the international market Berlin Competition player “The Pearl Button,” the latest film from Chilean Patricio Guzman, the doyen of Latin American documentary filmmakers.
Pyramide has also taken French distribution rights to the film. Described by Guzman to fellow celebrated documentarian Frederick Wiseman as a “diptych” with “Nostalgia of the Light,” which Pyramide also sold, “The Pearl Button” explores hallmark Guzman themes – memory, the historical past, for example, but transplanted to an extraordinary new context: Chile’s Western Patagonia Archipelago, the largest archipelago in the world, per Guzman, with an estimated 74,000 kilometers of coast, a maze of islands, isles, inlets, peninsulas, rock and fjords.
Shot using two sailing boats, which traveled from the Almirantazgo Sound, a fjord on Tierro de Fuego island, around to the Beagle Chanel, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic.
A documentary, but with some staged scenes, its characters include but some of the last surviving descendants of the original settlers of the Archipelago: Gabriela Paterito, a Kaweskar, and Cristina Calderon, a Yagan. Also appearing in the documentary are historian Gabriel Salazar and poet Raul Zurita, recipients of Chile’s National History and Literature Prizes.
As in the rest of his oeuvre, running through “The Pearl Button” is a passion the preservation of a collective memory of the past before it disappears, and a huge sympathy for history of its losers.
Guzman’s new film does not focus directly on Chile’s largely repressed past under Pinochet, but its title is inspired, Guzman told Wiseman, by a shirt button found wedged in rails recovered from the sea. The bodies of Pinochet’s victims were tied to these rails, then the rails, which Guzman does include in the film, were dumped in the open sea. A further reference, said Guzman, is the pearl button with which Captain Fitzroy bought the freedom of a Yaghan native, knick-named Jemmy Button, who was taken to England as a hostage.
Renate Sachse produces for France’s Atacama Productions, the Paris-based shingle she owns with Guzman. Co-producing are Valdivia Film’s Bruno Bettati and Fernando Lataste in Chile, and Jaume Roures at Spain’s Mediapro. Also producing Isabel Coixet’s Berlin opener “Nobody Wants the Night,” “The Pearl Button marks Mediapro’s second film in Berlin competition this year, a notable achievement for any production company.
“The Pearl Button” marks Guzman’s follow up to “Nostalgia For the Light,” which won Best Documentary at both 2010’s European Film Awards and at the 2011 DGA IDA Documentary Awards.
“Light,” turns on the Chilean director’s reflections on the passage of time. These are inspired by observatories in Chile’s Atacama Desert whose telescopes detect the oldest light in the universe. Meanwhile, nearby, families search for the bodies of relatives murdered by Augusto Pinochet’s regime, which lie buried in a mass grave. Like 2004’s “Salvador Allende,” “Nostalgia” world premiered out of competition at Cannes.
“For me, Patricio Guzman is one of the greatest documentarists in the world. Film by film, he has built a strong, emotional and beautiful work but always remained true to himself : a filmmaker of the memory, the memory of his home country, Chile,” said Pyramide’s Eric Lagesse. We have sold ‘Nostalgia for the Light’ in many territories and I am very confident the same enthusiasm will convince all the buyers of the world to go for ‘The Pearl Button.’ It is so rare to see a documentary in competition in Berlin but Patricio’s ‘Pearl Button’ is a rare movie.
Pyramide’s Lucero Garzon added: “We are extremely proud to work again with Patricio Guzman, following the 2010 Cannes’ presentation of ‘Nostalgia For the Light.’
He has an unique way of combining universal topics with a profound reflection on Chile’s history. ‘The Pearl Button’ is a visually striking, political and poetical documentary and the Berlinale Competition is a great opportunity to show it.”