Human rights, art come together in Chilean film

Amy Thornton

Art and human rights converged Monday night at a film screening featuring Chilean political prisoners of the Pinochet dictatorship who looked to the stars as a way to preserve their inner freedom.

The Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice sponsored the event. The center is an interdisciplinary organization that aims to encourage dialogue and scholarship at the intersection of activism and advocacy.

The event started with the screening of “Nostalgia de la Luz” — “Nostalgia for the Light” — a film by Chilean documentary filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, and was followed by a panel about human rights featuring law professor Zipporah Wiseman and assistant Spanish professor Luis Carcamo-Huechante.

A friend of Guzmán, Wiseman said the film was shot in the vast Atacama Desert and was featured in the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It moves between women searching for the skeletons of those they loved who were murdered by the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the huge astronomical observatory at the top of a mountain above them, where astronomers gaze into the cosmos.

“The film is an extraordinary work of art and advocacy,” Wiseman said. “Anyone who sees it can’t help but take away the women’s tragedy of losing family to a dictator and murder.”

Carcamo-Huechante, a Mapuche Indian from Chile, talked about the history of the Chilean dictatorship and gave a broader background of human rights in Chile, putting the issue into a larger context.

“I hope that attendees are moved by the film, either by its artistic expression or by its grave subject matter,” said Rapoport Human Rights scholar Stacy Cammarano. “This film is a great avenue for people with different academic backgrounds to think about enforced disappearance, the transition and recovery from human rights abuses and how those themes are portrayed in film.”

The screening is the first event by the newly-created Human Rights and the Arts Working Group, a mix of professors and graduate students from multiple departments who are working to bring arts to campus and have a human rights discussion.

“Art is so often used for human rights advocacy, or as a means of understanding and coping with traumatic events,” Cammarano said. “We chose this movie because it is a perfect example of the intersection of art and human rights.”