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El boton de nacar 20000337 st 1 s high

El botón de nácar

Patricio Guzmán / CL, FR, ES, 2015 / 82 min.

The ocean contains the history of all mankind. Water, Chile’s longest border, also guards the secret of a mysterious button found on the ocean bed.

El boton de nacar 20000337 ps 1 s high

Water plays a major narrative role in this poetic documentary film on the history of Chile by master documentarist Patricio Guzmán. Gradually it becomes clear that the sea was also a graveyard for the political prisoners who were dropped from helicopters under Pinochet’s regime.

The beautifully meditative El botón de nácar (The Pearl Button) subtly interweaves the genocide of the indigenous Patagonian people with the political murders committed by Pinochet’s regime in the 1970s.

Guzmán achieves this through two pearl buttons that link two histories set a century apart. With one of them, the native Patagonian Jemmy Button was bought by an English captain in the nineteenth century. The other one is a button from the coat of a drowned political prisoner which was later found stuck on a metal rail-track used to weight down the prisoner as he was thrown into the sea.


Then there are also astronomers in Guzmán’s sophisticated tale, who work in the extremely arid Atacama desert and who appear to be connected to the original inhabitants of Patagonia. The astronomers, too, conceive of the ocean as something inseparable from life, a medium between the cosmos and man, ideas which Guzmán also reflected on in his previous film Nostalgia de la luz (Nostalgia for the Light).



Patricio Guzmán

Production year




Original title

El botón de nácar


82 min.







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