It seems Patricio Guzmán has the write stuff this awards season…
The 70-year-old Chilean filmmaker has received a Writers Guild Award nomination in the Documentary Screenplay category from the Writers Guild of America for his award-winning film Nostalgia for the Light.
In the self-narrated documentary, which recently won Best Feature at the IDA Documentary Awards, the Santiago-born director Patricio Guzmán travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert, where atop the mountains astronomers from around the world gather to observe the stars.
It’s also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies, 19th century explorers and miners, and political prisoners who “disappeared” with help from the Chilean army after the military coup of September 1973.
So while astronomers examine the galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women and surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here, search, even after 25 years, for the remains of their loved ones.
“Most of my work refers to the historical memory of Chile and Latin America,” says Guzmán while reflecting on the arc of his long, legendary career. “It’s a passion — creative territory that I have always followed.”
He’s best known for his epic three-part film The Battle of Chile (1973), an on-the-ground account of democratically elected leftist Salvador Allende’s brief term in office before a U.S.-backed coup d’etat brought dictator General Augusto Pinochet to power.
Guzmán has always fought to rescue his native country from cultural amnesia through the art of eyewitness cinema. But his tireless examinations of remembrance (and the violence of forgetting) have been just as cutting to his many projects.
Guzmán crystallizes these lifelong fixations in Nostalgia for the Light. With great patience for the stories of those he interviews—nearly all of whom have been touched by the crimes of the post-coup dictatorship—he creates a somber and poignant film that tells the story of that tragic time, when hope yielded to corruption.
The 2012 Writers Guild Awards will be held on Sunday, February 19, 2012.