Filmatique | The Pearl Button

The Pearl Button

// Presented as part of Filmatique's Visions from the South of the World Series //

Spotlight on The Pearl Button  

Exclusive Essay: The Pearl Button: A Hyper-modern Documentary about Water, Indigenous People, and Matters of Life



Patricio Guzmán / 2014, Berlin, Adelaide, Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, BAFICI, Bergen, BFI London, Biografilm Festival, Doclisboa, Helsinki, Jerusalem, Melbourne, NYT Critics' Pick, Philadelphia, São Paulo, San Sebastián, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Yamagata / 82'


Suspended between the Pacific and the Andes, Chile is a landscape of contradictions. Despite 2,760 miles of coastline it is not considered a sea-faring nation—colonizers made sure to erase not only Chile's indigenous peoples, but also their connection to these waters. Yet water persists as a repository of memory, reflecting the dazzling plenitude of the cosmos above, the secrets of human civilizations below. As the final resting place of more than 10,000 political prisoners, the voices of Pinochet's desaparecidos murmur from beneath the water's surface.


Navigating Chile's colonial and political histories vis-à-vis its expansive waterways, The Pearl Button charts the labyrinths of individual and collective memory, summoning our role in their making. Acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán's companion piece to Nostalgia for the Light premiered at Toronto, BFI London, San Sebastián, Doclisboa; Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, where it won the Mayor's Prize; Philadelphia, where it won Best Documentary Feature; Bergen, where it won an Honorable Mention; and Berlin, where it won a Silver Bear for Best Script and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. The Pearl Button also won the Lumière Award for Best Documentary, and is a New York Times Critics' Pick.



"Patricio Guzmán’s documentary is a masterful survey of geology, anthropology and history"

- Nigel Andrews, Film Review, The Financial Times