Welcome to the blog of the Wales One World Film festival 2013. For the weeks leading up to the festival and everyday during the week long celebration of world cinema that is WOW, we will be previewing events, talking to those behind the festival and it's movies, as well as providing the most definitive reaction to the films on show at the festival. Lends us your ears, words and minds @WOWfilm and @lloydgriffiths

This is the blog of the Wales One World film festival, providing the most insightful and informed comment, preview and interviews from the festival you can find - outside of cornering the directors in a Canton car park and demanding discursive enlightenment. But they’ve probably travelled far, so don’t do that. 
Over the next few weeks, we will be previewing some of the festival’s much anticipated events; the live scored Turksib, the hugely popular Where Do We Go Now? and the demanding and driven agricultural documentary Think Global Act Rural, amongst others. Look out for interviews with the people behind the films, starting with an interview with the Festival’s founder and director and all round great chap, David Gillam. Most excitingly of all, we will be providing coverage of the festival - Reviews, pictures and audience reactions, all kicking off at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff on March 18th onwards.
Our reviews are coming from the cultural enclave of our capital in Canton, but if you are attending the varied events in Aberystwyth or Mold, Swansea or Cardiff, Newport or Cardigan, we want to hear your views on WOW, on the films you’ve seen and why you chose to do so.
For the most up to date information and news on the festival, including film times, details of where to buy a coveted week long WOW passport and events related to the festival such as ethical food markets, bounce over to http://www.wowfilmfestival.com/ 
And if you can’t think why you’d like to go to WOW, just take some inspiration from Canton’s very own enchanting Ivor Novello -

A visit to a cinema is a little outing in itself. It breaks the monotony of an afternoon or evening; it gives a change from the surroundings of home, however pleasant.

On those beautiful simplistic words, adieu.
Picture: Tales Of the Night, Dir. Michel Ocelot, showing @ Chapter Arts Centre, 24 & 25 March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 24 March 

This is the blog of the Wales One World film festival, providing the most insightful and informed comment, preview and interviews from the festival you can find - outside of cornering the directors in a Canton car park and demanding discursive enlightenment. But they’ve probably travelled far, so don’t do that. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be previewing some of the festival’s much anticipated events; the live scored Turksib, the hugely popular Where Do We Go Now? and the demanding and driven agricultural documentary Think Global Act Rural, amongst others. Look out for interviews with the people behind the films, starting with an interview with the Festival’s founder and director and all round great chap, David Gillam. Most excitingly of all, we will be providing coverage of the festival - Reviews, pictures and audience reactions, all kicking off at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff on March 18th onwards.

Our reviews are coming from the cultural enclave of our capital in Canton, but if you are attending the varied events in Aberystwyth or Mold, Swansea or Cardiff, Newport or Cardigan, we want to hear your views on WOW, on the films you’ve seen and why you chose to do so.

For the most up to date information and news on the festival, including film times, details of where to buy a coveted week long WOW passport and events related to the festival such as ethical food markets, bounce over to http://www.wowfilmfestival.com/ 

And if you can’t think why you’d like to go to WOW, just take some inspiration from Canton’s very own enchanting Ivor Novello -

A visit to a cinema is a little outing in itself. It breaks the monotony of an afternoon or evening; it gives a change from the surroundings of home, however pleasant.

On those beautiful simplistic words, adieu.

Picture: Tales Of the Night, Dir. Michel Ocelot, showing @ Chapter Arts Centre, 24 & 25 March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 24 March 

It was a brilliant opening night of WOW at Chapter last Sunday – the subtle and beautifully filmed documentary Turksib captivating all with it’s pulsing clash of man and metal. A documentary on Russian railway policy (to put it one way) from the late 1920’s may’ve sounded cold at the outset, but plenty of people turned up in leafy, sunny Canton to enjoy the truly formative documentary. It gathered tension and momentum like the Trains that pounded through the second half of the film - all the while retaining a subtle humour and humility which demonstrated the breadth of its influence, particularly on post-war British documentaries. The impressionism of the film (and superb live score by Bronnt Industries Kapital) brilliantly hinted at the balance and tension between man and machine, becoming increasingly ambivalent as the film collided towards the visceral power of the Turksib railway, trains shuddering through previously textured and benign landscapes. 


"The impressionism of the film brilliantly hinted at the balance and tension between man and machine, becoming increasingly ambivalent as the film collided towards the visceral power of the Turksib railway"


It was received enthusiastically by the audience, with the promise of this weekend’s filmic feast undoubtedly now markedly closer to the minds of those who enjoyed it. You will find our own review & interview with Bronnt Industries Kapital up before the weekend, but first, here’s a preview of the events which are making us most excited for the next few days of the Wales One World Festival.
 
The much anticipated Where Do We Go Now? has been a hit with international festival audiences, regularly selling out large screenings and winning award acclaim at Oslo, San Sebastian and Toronto International Film Festivals as well as receiving Un Certain Regard at Cannes. Alas, such accruements can be difficult to relate to when they are bandied as liberally as I just did. Luckily, Where Do We Go Now? looks an engaging and refreshing parable of religion divisions in spite of the hype - a comedy set in a fictitious Lebanese village where Muslim and Christians live together harmoniously, only to have this ideal threatened by outside influences.  The trailer shows the women of the village banding together with enthused and comic vim to protect their hot headed men from infighting, by the tried and trusted means of hash and belly dancing.  Its mixture of revealing allegory and warming idealism reminds one of 2007’s Persepolis, and the trailer promises a film with a vibrancy and vitality that is tied to its subject matter, rather than lightly worn rose-tinted specs. 


"an engaging and refreshing parable of religion divisions…Its mixture of revealing allegory and warming idealism promises vibrancy and vitality rather than lightly worn rose-tinted specs…"


Lebanon/France/Italy/Egypt/2011/ 100mins/subtitled/15. Dir: Nadine Labaki. With: Nadine Labaki, Layla Hakim.
Thursday 22nd March, Chapter Arts Centre, 20:30. Friday 24th March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 20:00.
 
International Documentaries are one of the particular focuses of this year’s festival, with political biography, self-made DIY African stories and meta-textual works all on offer; a reflection of the growing respect and authority they’ve been treated with in the past 3 or 4 years. Mark Kermode named Benda Bilili! his #3 favourite film of 2011 for its verite tale of a disabled & homeless Kinshasa band and where their music has taken them - a sign not only of critical acclaim, but also of the ability of international documentary to communicate authentic and unique stories. Amongst the exciting documentaries on offer at WOW is AnDa Union: From the Steppes to the City, a documentary about music that, similarly to Benda Bilili!,intertwines joyous music and powerful live performances with the personal tales and day-to-day lives of the musicians. Filmed in the concrete city Hohhot and their homes on the Mongolian grasslands, the film creates a montage of electric concert performances which play over intercut images of their bustling provincial Chinese city as well as their day to day lives - weddings, sheep slaughter and instrument craft, intimating their strife to retain their Ancient culture. Their unique throat singing and string violins has attracted attention and acclaim of its own, so this will prove fascinating viewing for fans of Documentary filmmaking and world music alike.
 
UK/2011/97 mins,  Dir: Tim Pearce, Sophie Lascelles, Marc Tiley, With: Anda Union. The screenings in both Cardiff and Aberystwyth will be followed by a Q & Awith director Tim Pearce.
Friday 23rd March, Chapter Arts Centre, 20:30. Saturday 24th March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 20:00. Clywd Theatr Cymru, Mold, Thursday 5th April, 20:00, Talesin Theatre, Swansea, Wednesday 11th April, 20:00.

It was a brilliant opening night of WOW at Chapter last Sunday – the subtle and beautifully filmed documentary Turksib captivating all with it’s pulsing clash of man and metal. A documentary on Russian railway policy (to put it one way) from the late 1920’s may’ve sounded cold at the outset, but plenty of people turned up in leafy, sunny Canton to enjoy the truly formative documentary. It gathered tension and momentum like the Trains that pounded through the second half of the film - all the while retaining a subtle humour and humility which demonstrated the breadth of its influence, particularly on post-war British documentaries. The impressionism of the film (and superb live score by Bronnt Industries Kapital) brilliantly hinted at the balance and tension between man and machine, becoming increasingly ambivalent as the film collided towards the visceral power of the Turksib railway, trains shuddering through previously textured and benign landscapes. 

"The impressionism of the film brilliantly hinted at the balance and tension between man and machine, becoming increasingly ambivalent as the film collided towards the visceral power of the Turksib railway"

It was received enthusiastically by the audience, with the promise of this weekend’s filmic feast undoubtedly now markedly closer to the minds of those who enjoyed it. You will find our own review & interview with Bronnt Industries Kapital up before the weekend, but first, here’s a preview of the events which are making us most excited for the next few days of the Wales One World Festival.

 

The much anticipated Where Do We Go Now? has been a hit with international festival audiences, regularly selling out large screenings and winning award acclaim at Oslo, San Sebastian and Toronto International Film Festivals as well as receiving Un Certain Regard at Cannes. Alas, such accruements can be difficult to relate to when they are bandied as liberally as I just did. Luckily, Where Do We Go Now? looks an engaging and refreshing parable of religion divisions in spite of the hype - a comedy set in a fictitious Lebanese village where Muslim and Christians live together harmoniously, only to have this ideal threatened by outside influences.  The trailer shows the women of the village banding together with enthused and comic vim to protect their hot headed men from infighting, by the tried and trusted means of hash and belly dancing.  Its mixture of revealing allegory and warming idealism reminds one of 2007’s Persepolis, and the trailer promises a film with a vibrancy and vitality that is tied to its subject matter, rather than lightly worn rose-tinted specs. 

"an engaging and refreshing parable of religion divisions…Its mixture of revealing allegory and warming idealism promises vibrancy and vitality rather than lightly worn rose-tinted specs…"

Lebanon/France/Italy/Egypt/2011/ 100mins/subtitled/15. Dir: Nadine Labaki. With: Nadine Labaki, Layla Hakim.

Thursday 22nd March, Chapter Arts Centre, 20:30. Friday 24th March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 20:00.

 

International Documentaries are one of the particular focuses of this year’s festival, with political biography, self-made DIY African stories and meta-textual works all on offer; a reflection of the growing respect and authority they’ve been treated with in the past 3 or 4 years. Mark Kermode named Benda Bilili! his #3 favourite film of 2011 for its verite tale of a disabled & homeless Kinshasa band and where their music has taken them - a sign not only of critical acclaim, but also of the ability of international documentary to communicate authentic and unique stories. Amongst the exciting documentaries on offer at WOW is AnDa Union: From the Steppes to the City, a documentary about music that, similarly to Benda Bilili!,intertwines joyous music and powerful live performances with the personal tales and day-to-day lives of the musicians. Filmed in the concrete city Hohhot and their homes on the Mongolian grasslands, the film creates a montage of electric concert performances which play over intercut images of their bustling provincial Chinese city as well as their day to day lives - weddings, sheep slaughter and instrument craft, intimating their strife to retain their Ancient culture. Their unique throat singing and string violins has attracted attention and acclaim of its own, so this will prove fascinating viewing for fans of Documentary filmmaking and world music alike.

 

UK/2011/97 mins,  Dir: Tim Pearce, Sophie Lascelles, Marc Tiley, With: Anda Union. The screenings in both Cardiff and Aberystwyth will be followed by a Q & Awith director Tim Pearce.

Friday 23rd March, Chapter Arts Centre, 20:30. Saturday 24th March, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 20:00. Clywd Theatr Cymru, Mold, Thursday 5th April, 20:00, Talesin Theatre, Swansea, Wednesday 11th April, 20:00.

Turksib opened WOW last Sunday in an enthralling and captivating performance of the 1929 Russian documentary on the clash of man, nature and machine in the building of the Siberia - Turkestan railway. The performance was given a frenetic beauty by Bronnnt Industries Kapital's stunning live score, composed especially for the film. So we thought it right and proper to find out from the band themselves the influences and inspirations behind BIK's interpretation of the film. Lloyd Griffiths talked to Guy Bartell of the duo on the Chapter performance, the thematic ambivalence of man, nature and machine in the film and tried to work out what hypnagogic means.
What’s your background that led you into such a specific form of performance?Film soundtrack music has always exerted the biggest influence on BIK, so it was no surprise that I’d venture into actual soundtrack composition and performance.
Were there any specific filmic inspirations that you consciously brought to the soundtrack?I have a particular soft spot for 70s and 80s European exploitation film soundtracks, which have (perhaps thankfully?) not been a big influence on this particular soundtrack. Did you come to composing the score with specific ideas of how you wanted to shape the film?I definitely wanted to exploit the contrasting elements of the film, especially the perceived conflict between man and nature, and the ambiguity as well; the film is a paean to man’s mastery over nature, but at the same time the technology becomes increasingly animated as the film progresses and the division between nature and the machines of man begin to blur; enormous cranes appear to yawn and roar like captive animals. Many of the sounds you hear which are used to convey industry and the machines were produced by normal musical instruments, wrestled into dissonance by being played in unconventional ways.


"I definitely wanted to exploit the perceived conflict between man and nature…It’s a paean man’s mastery over nature but at the same time the division between nature and the machines begins to blur."


How does Turksib compare with your other soundtrack projects?I previously composed a soundtrack for the 1922 film Haxan, a Swedish silent study of superstition and the history of witchcraft. That score had a far more hypnagogic quality to it; the film mixes a quasi-historical narrative with vivid dramatisations of the Sabbat, and the soundtrack attempts to match this with a ritualistic, spectral ambience. Turksib is both cinematically and musically more grounded in the corporeal world.
Does the international nature of the film effect the performance or composing of the score?The film focusses intently on the effect of the Soviet technological ‘advance guard’ on the native peoples of Turkestan (a historical region comprised of present-day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan). A notable scene shows a nomad elder remarking at the “Devil’s Chariot” that the Turksib surveyors are riding (an automobile). With this in mind, the music attempts to suggest a collision of cultures; the placid solo instruments and folk drones of Central Asia entangled in the wheels of Turksib’s machine, sent spinning through a prism of rotating drum rhythms.


"Turksib is both cinematically and musically more grounded in the corporeal world"


What were the things that struck you from the film as important to highlight and represent in the score?The director Victor Turin was astonishingly good at montage editing, especially considering the technology available to him in 1929. The scenes are choreographed and spliced together with a remarkable sense of of rhythm and pace, and the film seems to posess a natural tempo that I actively tried to harness and utilize as much as possible with the score.How is playing the score live for you compared with a typical concert?It’s more daunting from a performance point of view as you can’t exactly stop the film! We swap instruments a lot during the show so there isn’t much scope for messing around. But by the same gesture it’s also comforting having less control and being dragged along on Turksib’s journey.How did you enjoy the first showing at Chapter - do you think the performances will vary depending on the audience/cinema?The Chapter show was amazing - we actually heard there were a couple of people from Kazakhstan at the screening who thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re really looking forward to the forthcoming performances.

Turksib opened WOW last Sunday in an enthralling and captivating performance of the 1929 Russian documentary on the clash of man, nature and machine in the building of the Siberia - Turkestan railway. The performance was given a frenetic beauty by Bronnnt Industries Kapital's stunning live score, composed especially for the film. So we thought it right and proper to find out from the band themselves the influences and inspirations behind BIK's interpretation of the film. Lloyd Griffiths talked to Guy Bartell of the duo on the Chapter performance, the thematic ambivalence of man, nature and machine in the film and tried to work out what hypnagogic means.

What’s your background that led you into such a specific form of performance?
Film soundtrack music has always exerted the biggest influence on BIK, so it was no surprise that I’d venture into actual soundtrack composition and performance.


Were there any specific filmic inspirations that you consciously brought to the soundtrack?
I have a particular soft spot for 70s and 80s European exploitation film soundtracks, which have (perhaps thankfully?) not been a big influence on this particular soundtrack. 

Did you come to composing the score with specific ideas of how you wanted to shape the film?
I definitely wanted to exploit the contrasting elements of the film, especially the perceived conflict between man and nature, and the ambiguity as well; the film is a paean to man’s mastery over nature, but at the same time the technology becomes increasingly animated as the film progresses and the division between nature and the machines of man begin to blur; enormous cranes appear to yawn and roar like captive animals. Many of the sounds you hear which are used to convey industry and the machines were produced by normal musical instruments, wrestled into dissonance by being played in unconventional ways.

"I definitely wanted to exploit the perceived conflict between man and nature…It’s a paean man’s mastery over nature but at the same time the division between nature and the machines begins to blur."


How does Turksib compare with your other soundtrack projects?
I previously composed a soundtrack for the 1922 film Haxan, a Swedish silent study of superstition and the history of witchcraft. That score had a far more hypnagogic quality to it; the film mixes a quasi-historical narrative with vivid dramatisations of the Sabbat, and the soundtrack attempts to match this with a ritualistic, spectral ambience. Turksib is both cinematically and musically more grounded in the corporeal world.

Does the international nature of the film effect the performance or composing of the score?
The film focusses intently on the effect of the Soviet technological ‘advance guard’ on the native peoples of Turkestan (a historical region comprised of present-day Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan). A notable scene shows a nomad elder remarking at the “Devil’s Chariot” that the Turksib surveyors are riding (an automobile). With this in mind, the music attempts to suggest a collision of cultures; the placid solo instruments and folk drones of Central Asia entangled in the wheels of Turksib’s machine, sent spinning through a prism of rotating drum rhythms.

"Turksib is both cinematically and musically more grounded in the corporeal world"


What were the things that struck you from the film as important to highlight and represent in the score?
The director Victor Turin was astonishingly good at montage editing, especially considering the technology available to him in 1929. The scenes are choreographed and spliced together with a remarkable sense of of rhythm and pace, and the film seems to posess a natural tempo that I actively tried to harness and utilize as much as possible with the score.

How is playing the score live for you compared with a typical concert?
It’s more daunting from a performance point of view as you can’t exactly stop the film! We swap instruments a lot during the show so there isn’t much scope for messing around. But by the same gesture it’s also comforting having less control and being dragged along on Turksib’s journey.

How did you enjoy the first showing at Chapter - do you think the performances will vary depending on the audience/cinema?
The Chapter show was amazing - we actually heard there were a couple of people from Kazakhstan at the screening who thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re really looking forward to the forthcoming performances.

We admit, it’s been a short while since we’ve blogged about Wales One World 2012, but with time for a breather over the weekend, we thought we’d gather our thoughts and witticisms before the final week of the festival begins. Okay, so it also took 4 or 5 days to recover from too many home made burgers, fine brews and (seemingly) arduous morning treks through Cardiff’s bute park, it’s a fair cop’. But it’s also taken meditative thought to properly digest the films packed excitedly into 4 days at Chapter Art’s Centre. The features lined up from now until the end of the festival will reflect that, with extended reviews, interviews and comment features, musing upon the prevalent themes of the festival and our opinion on the response to and quality of the films.
 There’s plenty remaining before for audiences in Swansea, Mold and Newport however - The festival continues until April 11th, with the last films showing in the Talesin Theatre, Swansea. If you plan on going, be sure to check out our reviews of the films on show there later this week. They including the wonderful coming-of-age tale, The Eagle Hunter’s Son which has been described as ‘The Mongolian Kes’, and has a transcendental beauty all of it’s own, as well as the immersive AnDa Union: From the Steppes to the City, a superbly paced documentary that intertwines scenes from the band’s home lives which are joyous and make you openly empathetic to Mongolian life, with their wonderful music performed in concert.
 For now though, above is Katie Brown’s review of Amigo, John Sayles humane fictional exploration of colonialism and conflict in the Phillipines.
Lloyd Griffiths

We admit, it’s been a short while since we’ve blogged about Wales One World 2012, but with time for a breather over the weekend, we thought we’d gather our thoughts and witticisms before the final week of the festival begins. Okay, so it also took 4 or 5 days to recover from too many home made burgers, fine brews and (seemingly) arduous morning treks through Cardiff’s bute park, it’s a fair cop’. But it’s also taken meditative thought to properly digest the films packed excitedly into 4 days at Chapter Art’s Centre. The features lined up from now until the end of the festival will reflect that, with extended reviews, interviews and comment features, musing upon the prevalent themes of the festival and our opinion on the response to and quality of the films.


There’s plenty remaining before for audiences in Swansea, Mold and Newport however - The festival continues until April 11th, with the last films showing in the Talesin Theatre, Swansea. If you plan on going, be sure to check out our reviews of the films on show there later this week. They including the wonderful coming-of-age tale, The Eagle Hunter’s Son which has been described as ‘The Mongolian Kes’, and has a transcendental beauty all of it’s own, as well as the immersive AnDa Union: From the Steppes to the City, a superbly paced documentary that intertwines scenes from the band’s home lives which are joyous and make you openly empathetic to Mongolian life, with their wonderful music performed in concert.


For now though, above is Katie Brown’s review of Amigo, John Sayles humane fictional exploration of colonialism and conflict in the Phillipines.


Lloyd Griffiths

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Welcome to Wales One World Festival 2013. After weeks of excited discussion, planning and of course watching, I’m glad to say that WOW’s fast approaching horizon means we can finally begin to bring you the best in previews, exclusive interviews and informed comment here at the WOW blog. With just a fortnight to go until the festival officially opens at Chapter arts centre on March 15, we will be cramming in as much cinematic edification and filmic foresight as we can without endangering fingertips. 

Before I introduce some of the things the blog will be covering, you may rightly ask, what is Wales One World? Well simply, it is a World cinema festival. And it’s in Wales. Go figure. In years past, the festival has sought out the finest strands of world film, finding authentic and inspiring work from dozens of countries  - from Patagonian road movies and Tibetan coming-of-age epics, to stunning animation and brutally honest documentaries. We’re running this blog for the 2nd year running as a complement and testament to these, aiming to provide context and comment on the intriguing intricacies of the films, directors and countries on show. As Wim Wenders (more on him another time) said, “cinema is a worldwide phenomenon” and we will try and shine a light on what makes the cinema of the stories and countries before us unique and purposeful.

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The festival is taking place across Wales in Cardiff, Mold, Swansea, Milford Haven, Aberystwyth and Cardigan, so whichever corner of our country you’re from, we’d love to hear your thoughts on WOW - what films are eagerly anticipated and why.

Amongst the happenings on this humble blog will be a look at Chilean cinema - including a glimpse of the third part of Pablo Larrain’s trilogy of films about Pinochet era Chile, No - a powerful and thought-provoking drama-cum-marketing satire about the referendum and ad campaign which ended the General’s rule. As I’m writing this on St. David’s Day it would be remiss of me not to mention features we have on the relationship between Welsh and World cinema. Patagonia launched WOW with it’s premiere in 2011 and we will be looking at it and Gruff Rhys’ magical-realist road movie Seperado, which both in their own way reinvigorate the Welsh-Argentinian region as a powerful myth for modern Wales.

Of course, this year’s programme is the main reason to get enthused. From Saudi Arabian feminist tales (Wadjda), defiant looks at occupied Palestine (5 Broken Cameras) to domestic Lynchian experimentalism (Post Tenebras Lux, winner best director at Cannes for Carlos Reygadas), there are reams of quality on offer, and we’ll do our utmost to cover it all through reviews and interviews with those that made the films happen.

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For the most up to date information and news on the festival, including film times, details of where to buy a coveted week long WOW passport and events related to the festival such as the opening night of Chilean food, drink n’ music, bounce over to http://www.wowfilmfestival.com/. 

Before all the above, this week we be looking at international animated films, with a feature on Japanese anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli and on other enchanting animated gems. If you want to contribute to the blog, get in touch above tweet at us on @wowfilm or @lloydgriffiths. 

Lloyd Griffiths.

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Pictures - Nostalgia for the Light, (Patrico Guzman, Chile, 2010), No, (Pablo Larrain, Chile, USA, Mexico, 2012) and Mama Africa, (Mika Kaurismaki, Finland, Germany, South Africa, 2011).

Review - Nostalgia for the Light

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Theodor Adorno’s much misquoted line “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” has a harrowing resonance at certain points in Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light. At moments in his interviews with widowed wives who search the desolate plains of Chile’s Atacama desert for fragments of their loved ones bones, one is struck by the almost incomprehensible tragedy of the situation. These women’s husbands are buried - somewhere under the endless, barren sands as a result of General Pinochet’s killing of political opponents. How can something so irrevocably tragic be met with more than sombre silence? 

It is a triumph that Nostalgia for the Light allows the pain of Chile’s past  to make sense on it’s own terms - that the dialectic between those wives who search beneath the desert’s surface and the Astrologers who look into the void of the cosmos doesn’t universalise or diminish the gritty, visceral historical pain of the former. The film introduces this to us as we see the alien, desolate plains of the Atacama offering the perfect site for Astrology in the late 1970’s - we see Scientists dreaming of other worlds, the film tempting us to wonder into the sparkling infinite above their heads. 

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The images of space are dazzlingly beautiful but we also see slow, meditative shots of the Atacama from above, and much of the cinematography, even amongst some scenes on the ground feel augmented by the sheer magnitude of the cosmos. It never feels reverent or elegiac of this fact though; the testimonies of the wives are numbingly direct - “I just want to find him [my husband] before I die”.

There is a kind of poetic link made between the Astrologers and the overwhelming tragedy and almost Sisyphean task that the women who continually seek amongst the endless desert undertake. They both search into a nothingness almost absurd in it’s immensity. At one point, one of the wives says she wishes there could be telescopes that could look down and discover the incomplete histories beneath their feet - discover the otherwise curbed agonies deprived of a history as they lay under the vast Atacama.

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In many ways, this is what Guzman has done - the poetic hugeness of space and humans place within it is how many of the Astrologers deal with their loss, one saying it has “given another dimension to the pain”. Astrology is not an escape but a way of affirming the human need for remembrance and memory and this film is both commemoration and an act of that. By the time we reach the film’s most literal evocation of the past - a gradual shot looking at fading pictures of missing persons, the image feels movingly real, a credit to the exemplary direction of Guzman, who has made a documentary of extraordinary immediacy - giving contemplative yet cinematic and symbolic life to a history which deserves it in every way possible.

Lloyd Griffiths.