Peace among the stars: A review of Nostalgia for the Light

By Megan Sweeting

Contributing Writer

With an image of majestic sky, Nostalgia for the Light captured the audience’s attention. Film director Patricio Guzmán portrayed a series of violent events that occurring during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and the lingering wound it made. The depiction of cherished stargazing also left its mark on Chilean culture. On February 23, Dr. Arturo Marquez-Gomez hosted the movie screening at the SUT. The documentary began with tranquil pictures of the moon and endless stars in an effort to describe earth’s vastness through photography. As the film continued, a pot of flowers on the windowsill of a quaint Chilean kitchen danced in the wind. Lacking prior knowledge of the film, I couldn’t help but feel comforted and safe as I watched. I wasn’t prepared for what followed when the focus shifted from beautiful astronomy to ugly dictatorship. Listening to the inhumane and absolutely horrific conditions many brave Chilean citizens endured turned my mood from safe to sorry. The lasting impact the dictatorship had on the women struck me the most. I saw pain and longing in the eyes of mothers, sisters and wives of the many men who were brutally murdered and dismembered in the Chilean desert. These women were still tirelessly searching for the bodies of their loved ones after years of false hope and ridicule. Though some would call their efforts pointless, I empathized with their willingness to uncover the truth in spite of their occasional doubt. It opened my eyes to see these women more and more hopeful every time they went on a search. I then realized why the film opened with astronomers discussing their passion for the skies. Guzmán brilliantly connects the beauty and pain of two different struggles, an astronomer’s longing for scientific discovery and a broken woman’s fight to unravel the truth. In the film, an astronomer observed the major difference in their work: peace. The scientists can search the skies, find nothing, and sleep peacefully. Meanwhile, these women search the dessert, find nothing, and remember yet again that their loved one could be out there lying in the cold dirt as his murderer walks freely.

Despite the ugliness of the dictatorship’s impact, beauty still thrived in Chile. For the first time, the women saw the stars through the eyes of astronomers. There were smiles, tears of joy, laughter, and more importantly: peace. I believe in the healing powers of the stars, and the film further affirmed this. The dictatorship’s power over Chile should always be remembered as a painful era, but the sky’s nostalgia will always be far more powerful than any negative impact. I commend Guzmán for sharing two often-overlooked stories. One student (C’19) said, “En el documental, las mujeres fuertes que he visto, me hacen feliz de decir que soy una mujer,” translated as, “In the documentary, the strong women that I saw made me happy to say that I am a woman.” Another student (C’19) said, “So much beauty and pain in such a short movie.” This film expresses a significant part of history in relation to the beauty of our surroundings and I encourage every student to see it.