Carbon Arc Review: The Eternal Memory

I am the Artistic Director at Carbon Arc Cinema, part of a group of programmers who choose the films we screen. 

Written and Directed by Maite Alberdi | 84 minutes | Carbon Arc Cinema 

Augusto Góngora is a journalist who covered Chilean politics and culture as an on-camera reporter and anchor, including the long stretch of Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Paulina Urrutia is an actor and has served as Chilean Cultural Minister. Augusto and Paulina have been married for 20 years and live in a beautiful house he built.

Now he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, and every day Paulina encourages his memory, telling stories of their lives together and soliciting stories from him, reminding him who he is. The filmmaker, Alberdi, has total access to their home lives as they manage this difficult time together.

The film is laced with footage from their past — both have been Chilean public figures, so there’s plenty of that, but also home movies as they raised a family and built their home. The film is very much about her continuing care for him, and their enduring love despite the progress of his disease.

It’s also about how this film — which has an intimacy that may feel uncomfortable given how vulnerable both people are in this time of illness — continues Augusto’s life’s work, which is focused on collective and personal memory. That he wrote a book called The Forbidden Memory is a sad irony.

All of this while they’re surrounded by books and photos, reminders of their shared life of the mind. We get a sense of the way their lives together have been to record and celebrate Chilean culture and recent history.

While watching the film I wondered what this must be like for Chileans, seeing the film. Bearing witness to these people who they must know and, presumably, adore — I tried to imagine Canadian counterparts, maybe Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul? Augusto and Paulina have now shared their private lives, but have done it for a reason. Their love now has a document.

If you choose to see the film, you may enjoy watching this post-screening Q&A with Paulina, where she explains why she and Augusto participated in this project.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.