The Pearl Button

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The Pearl Button
El botón de nácar (poster).jpg
Film poster
Directed by Patricio Guzmán
Produced by Renate Sachse
Cinematography Katell Djian
Release date
  • 8 February 2015 (2015-02-08) (Berlin)
  • 15 October 2015 (2015-10-15) (Chile)
Running time
82 minutes
Country Chile
Language Spanish

The Pearl Button (Spanish: El botón de nácar) is a 2015 Chilean documentary film directed by Patricio Guzmán. It was screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival[1] where it won the Silver Bear for Best Script.[2] It won the Lumières Award for Best Documentary at the 21st Lumières Awards.[3] The filmmaker has described the work as part of a triptych with Nostalgia for the Light and potentially a third film focusing on the Andes.[4]

It explores familiar Guzmán themes such as memory and the historical past, particularly that of history's losers rather than victors, recording some of the last surviving members of the original Alacalufe and Yaghan tribes.[5] A departure for Guzmán is that it does not focus solely on Chile’s past under Augusto Pinochet, as the title was partly inspired by a shirt button discovered during a 2004 investigation by Chilean judge Juan Guzmán on a length of rail used to weight the bodies of Pinochet’s victims dumped in the sea and partly by the button after which the Yaghan native Jemmy Button was named when taken aboard HMS Beagle in 1830.[5]


A meditation in vision and sound on the geography and history of Chile, structured around the water which permeates the country and gives life to its inhabitants, looking in particular at the fate of two persecuted groups: the indigenous people and the victims of Pinochet. Topics covered include: the far north of Chile, the most waterless place on earth, where radio telescopes in the desert discover more about the cosmos each day; a schoolfriend washed away by the sea; the genocide of the native tribes in the far south and how their way of life was destroyed; the story of Jemmy Button, taken from Tierra del Fuego to England; the efforts under Allende to rehabilitate the surviving tribespeople; the concentration camps set up under Pinochet; how inmates were tortured and how their bodies, weighted with lengths of rail, were dropped from helicopters into the Pacific; how one corpse was washed ashore; and finally how one of the lengths of rail recovered from the sea had a mother-of-pearl shirt button encrusted to it.


  1. ^ "Berlinale 2015: Competition Complete". Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Prizes of the International Jury". Berlinale. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "France's Lumiere Awards: 'Mustang' Takes Top Honors". The Hollywood Reporter. 8 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "Water Is The Connection: An Interview with Patricio Guzmán". Sounds and Colours. Retrieved 17 March 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Hopewell, John (29 January 2015). "Pyramide Int. Brings 'The Pearl Button' Onto the International Market". Variety. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 

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