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★★★★★

This beautiful film from Patricio Guzmán is an outstanding achievement, a deeply affecting chronicle of a search for the past in both the soil beneath the vast Atacama desert, and the infinite stars in the sky above. Guzmán combines captivating footage of the astronomers’ search for distant galaxies with harrowing interviews with the mothers, wives and sisters of political prisoners executed on the barbaric orders of the Pinochet regime. These women search the desert for their loved ones’ bones, denied the bodies, truths and closure they need by the government’s obfuscation. Guzmán explores the connection between the two searches, and in doing so turns what could be a good film on three counts – as a documentary on astronomy, as a depiction of a beautiful geographic region, or as an account of a lost chapter of Chilean history – into a masterpiece. He manages to tell a story that is at once of a specific time and place, but that is also timeless and epic.

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