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Sundance Film Festival / Review : “The Eternal Memory” Captures What It Means to Find an Unconditional Love

Director Maite Alberdi emotionally captured the hearts of audiences at Sundance 2020 with “The Mole Agent.” The film went on to garner an Oscar nomination and was shown to audiences around the globe. Now, she’s at the festival again with her surprisingly well-made documentary, “The Eternal Memory,” which won the top prize for the World Cinema Documentary at this year’s Sundance.

Chilean TV journalist Augusto Gongora and Paulina Urrutia, an actor and former politician, who served as Minister of Culture, were married in 2016 and were together for 25 wonderful years.

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But in 2014, Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his partner Paulina became his caretaker, which proved especially challenging when his symptoms began worsening during the pandemic.

Director Alberdi documents a heartbreaking and heart-warming story by giving audiences an incredibly frank and intimate look into Paulina and Augusto’s lives. Filmed over a four year period with a handful of crew, Alberdi delves into the couple’s most intimate times. Augusto had spent a large chunk of his life following the violent dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, recording an emotional and political memory of Chile.

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Augusto recalls with clarity some of the key stories he broke as a reporter. He recalls the worst of Pinochet, stories of police brutality, and colleagues lost to violence.

But now he’s suffering from the memory-destroying onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease. So Paulina not only washes, dresses him, feeds him, but also she keeps his memory alive. No matter how often she has to explain who she is and where they are, she shows unwavering love and feeling for Augusto. She illustrates what true love looks like.

When the film crew follows Paulina and Augusto into a quiet restaurant for a dinner date, they capture one of the film’s heartbreaking moments. The camera observes the two as they discuss their past. Paulina quizzes Augusto, testing his memory with the hope of keeping it alive. Unfortunately, he can’t recall their first date and, most poignantly, doesn’t remember why they never had children [It was due to Augusto’s prior marriage].

The situation worsens when the COVID-19 pandemic hits and confines them to their home. Paulina now has to remind him again and again why the news keeps reporting deaths, why they’re always home, and why friends never come to see them. The prolonged isolation confuses him. As the years go by and Augusto’s condition inevitably worsens, the exhaustion on Paulina’s face is abundantly clear. Yet, she still remains strong to keep him grounded.

The Eternal Memory” connects past and present while revealing Augusto’s deteriorating state of mind. The film tenderly illustrates the impact that emotional responses can have on memories which include a series of good and bad moments.

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Even though the film deals with the daunting effects of Alzheimer’s disease, “The Eternal Memory” defines their tale not by tragedy, but by affirming the power of love. 

Check out the Meet the Artist 2023: Maite Alberdi on “The Eternal Memory.”

Nobuhiro Hosoki
Nobuhiro Hosokihttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Nobuhiro Hosoki grew up watching American films since he was a kid; he decided to go to the United States thanks to seeing the artistry of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange.” After graduating from film school, he worked as an assistant director on TV Tokyo’s program called "Morning Satellite" at the New York branch office but he didn’t give up on his interest in cinema. He became a film reporter for via Yahoo Japan News. In that role, he writes news articles, picks out headliners for Yahoo News, as well as interviewing Hollywood film directors, actors, and producers working in the domestic circuit in the USA. He also does production interviews for Japanese distributors of American films and for in-theater on-sale programs. He is now the editor-in-chief of Cinemadailyus.com while continuing his work for Japan.

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