Chilean films take top prizes at Guadalajara Film Festival

Best Feature Film and Best Documentary both went retrospectively to Chilean films, Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem and Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light.

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The 26th Annual Guadalajara Film Festival – one of the most important in the world of Ibero-American films – saw two major victories for the Chilean film industry.

Pablo Larraín’s film Post Mortem took the award for Best Feature Length Film, while Patricio Guzmán’s most recent documentary Nostalgia for the Light took home Best Documentary.

Both films deal directly with the human impact of the 1973 military coup and subsequent dictatorship. Guzmán’s film follows two parallel stories in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Half the film focuses on the astronomical observatories that take advantage of the clearest skies on earth to look deep into the cosmos; the other half documents the efforts of two women to unearth the remains of their relatives that had been held in a nearby detention camp for political prisoners.

Pablo Larraín’s film creates an atmosphere of vague menace and melancholy, following the ageing, lonely morgue worker Mario Cornejo (Alfredo Castro) who over the course of the film finds himself in the service of the military government. Castro’s performance also earned him the Festival’s award for Best Actor, while the film’s cinematographer Sergio Armstrong won the award for Best Photography.

Larraín’s film was selected from amongst a total of 13 films in its category in Guadalajara.

Since its August 2010 debut, Post Mortem has garnered considerable critical attention in international film festivals in Havana and Venice, the latter amongst the world’s most influential. Following Guadalajara it has also earned a recommendation for consideration at next year’s Golden Globe Awards.

Guzmán’s film is the last in a long and illustrious career documenting Chile’s history, including his celebrated 1970s triptych The Battle of Chile documenting the military coup and dictatorship. In New York City’s Brooklyn Academy of Music, a current retrospective of the director’s work solidifies his place in the canon of great documentarians.

Both films, while plumbing the painful depths of Chile’s recent past, also demonstrate the essential importance of remembrance in the process of healing. Chile is a country on the move, socially, economically, and as these films prove, artistically – not just in spite of its troubled history, but also by coming to grips with it.