So the Dead May Finish Dying

While watching Patricio Guzmán's superb documentary The Pearl Button, I came across this scene in which Chilean poet Raúl Zurita talks about the people who were tortured and disappeared under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In 1973, the democratically elected Salvador Allende was overthrown by a U.S.-backed coup that placed Pinochet in power. Over the next seventeen years, anyone who spoke against the regime was tortured, imprisoned, and often murdered. Zurita himself endured such violence.

In The Pearl Button, Zurita reflects on the cruelty of not giving the bodies of the disappeared back to their families and how this, in effect, prevents grieving from taking place. I was reminded of the work that Pauline Boss does on ambiguous loss, which is a type of loss without resolution, like not having the body of your missing loved one. So many families in Chile, under the Pinochet regime, were robbed of the right to bury their spouses, children, friends, and relatives. They will never know any kind of resolution to their pain and grief.

Guzmán mined similar territory in his extraordinary documentary Nostalgia for the Light. In that film he focused on women who were still searching for the bodies of people who disappeared during Pinochet's violent reign.  Both films are essential and vital works of art about violence, loss, and how the past haunts the present.