IDFA: The Pearl Button

IDFA: director Patricio Guzmán takes us on a quest for the secrets of the deep.

Despite its coastline that measures almost 4,000 miles (6,500 km), modern-day Chile has few links, either economic or psychological, to the Pacific Ocean. Just as Patricio Guzmán used the desert sand and the stars as metaphors for an investigation into Chile’s dictatorial past in Nostalgia for the Light, here he takes us on a quest for the secrets of the deep.

His journey leads us from the last descendants of the original inhabitants of the Patagonian coast to the crimes committed under the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet. Guzmán captures the landscape in beautiful long shots, ranging from aerial footage to extreme close-ups of water droplets and vegetation. These are all interspersed with excerpts from interviews, old archive footage and stories like those about the water nomads, whose culture was all but annihilated by the arrival of the colonists. The film’s title refers to a button found on the ocean floor by divers, still searching for traces of the many political prisoners who were dumped in the Pacific in the late 1970s.