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Patricio Guzmán left Chile more than 40 years ago when the military dictatorship took over the government. However, he never stopped thinking about a country, a culture and a place on the map.

Director: Patricio Guzmán
Writer: Patricio Guzmán
Stars: Jorge Baradit, Vicente Gajardo, Francisco Gazitúa

Subtitled in English

Presented in collaboration with the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival



The great Chilean documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán does not grapple with the idea of eternity in his new picture, “The Cordillera of Dreams.” He sits with it, patiently. He considers it through metaphor, as his camera slowly considers the chain of Andes Mountains that makes up the cordillera of his movie’s title.

Drone shots are overused in movies, often predictably so; this sublime film, though, abounds in great, distinctive ones. Guzmán’s lens flies the way you would wish your own eye could, unveiling incredible natural beauty and revealing secrets: a labyrinth of gorges for instance. The filmmaker’s narration nuzzles up to the metaphysical, and frequently anthropomorphizes the mountains that practically seal off Guzmán’s homeland. But given his own story and the story this picture needs to tell, the movie toggles between heights and depths.

Guzmán left Chile in the 1970s. As depicted in this account, he exiled himself to Cuba practically carrying reels of film under his arms. Those reels became his signature work, the acclaimed documentary The Battle of Chile, a searing chronicle of the coup that felled Salvador Allende Gossens and culminated in Augusto Pinochet’s fascist rule. Guzmán did not return to his homeland for decades, and one of the sites he visits in this film is his childhood home in Santiago, the facade of which seems immaculately preserved. But the house has no roof, a cue for one of the movie’s drone shots.

“Santiago receives me with indifference,” muses the filmmaker, whose voice is heard throughout but who is never seen except in archival footage.

Memory and loss are interwoven with an activist sense of lineage. (The movie, which won best documentary at Cannes last year, is the last part of a trilogy; the prior pictures in it, “Nostalgia for the Light” and “The Pearl Button,” are in a similar mode.) Guzmán interviews writers and artists who remained in Chile after he departed. One of them, recounting the propaganda of the day, chillingly recalls how “The Left became a demon that had to be eliminated,” a state of affairs that evokes both a distant past and our immediate present. Guzmán eventually settles in with Pablo Salas, a documentarian whose archive of footage in different film and video formats is fascinating.

Once Guzmán starts discussing how Pinochet and his cronies used “the Chicago model” to bring their country to economic ruin, you may think, given the depredations these figures committed, that he’s talking about Al Capone. Except he’s talking about the American economist Milton Friedman, of the University of Chicago, whose prescriptions Pinochet followed. “The Cordillera of Dreams” is a beautiful film about nightmares that have yet to end.

-Glenn Kenny, NY TIMES