Review by Camden Ferrell
The Cordillera of Dreams is the newest documentary from veteran filmmaker Patricio Guzmán. His documentary premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Golden Eye Award for Best Documentary. This movie completes his landscape and memory trilogy, and while it isn’t without flaw, it serves as a contemplative and emotional look at a dark period in Chilean history.
From the Spanish word for “mountain range”, this movie is about the cordillera that is the Andes mountains. Guzmán uses this grand natural spectacle, which makes up Chile’s eastern border, and connects it to the historical events that it has overseen. Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship is a significant and heartbreaking period in Chilean history, and it’s one that movie aims to bring attention to.
It’s a painfully personal story for Guzmán since he reveals that he hasn’t returned to his home since the coup occurred in 1973. His return is one that is highly emotional. After being away for so long, he comes back to a place that is so far removed from what he knew as his home. It’s a mournful look at a country that has changed, a country that has witnessed unspeakable horrors since his departure.
However, thanks to Chilean filmmaker Pablo Salas, there is a vast amount of archive footage of during the dictatorship. Guzmán shows us this footage, and it’s is a disturbing but necessary portrait of fascism that contributes to the movie thematically. He establishes a natural connection between the events that transpired and the cordillera that serves as an observer and keeper of Chilean history.
The movie deals with the passage of time and the memory of what once was. He is plagued by a longing to recapture the joy and innocence of his childhood in the same way many of us yearn for a world that only exists in our memories. It’s a movie that forces you to come face to face with time and the tragedy that our world faces, and it’s a powerful message at that.
The movie is also bolstered by some grand imagery of the Andes. He uses a variety of angles and methods to capture the grandeur of the mountain range, and he is able to create a visual association between the landscape and the history of the land. It’s a profound statement that gives the movie a unique voice.
Unfortunately, there are moments in the first 30 minutes that feel like its attention is misplaced. This gets the movie off to a rocky start, but once Pablo Salas and his archives enters the picture, the movie hits its stride. This movie emphasizes that Chile’s vile history will not be forgotten, and that the truth will endure but it also illustrates that the pain and tragedy will also endure. It’s a bittersweet reality that never satisfies Guzmán’s desire for Chile to recover its joy.
The Cordillera of Dreams highlights an important chapter in Chilean history and connects it to the mountain range that observed it all. It’s a thought-provoking and personal journey that will speak to many. While it gets off to a rough start, this is a documentary that is definitely worth checking out.
The Cordillera of Dreams is now playing in select theaters.
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