Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman's "Nostalgia for the Light" took home best feature honors Friday at the International Documentary Assn.'s 2011 Documentary Awards at the DGA Theatre in West Hollywood.
Set in northern Chile's Atacama Desert, the documentary juxtaposes scenes of astronomers in observatories scanning the galaxies, while nearby, archaeologists and elderly women dig through the sand searching for the human remains of pre-Columbian mummies, 19th century miners who labored in slave conditions and the bodies of victims of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's regime who were taken to the Atacama as political prisoners and dumped there.
Guzman, who lives in Paris, told The Times in an interview earlier this year that the idea for "Nostalgia" occurred to him because he had known about the mothers searching for their missing children through press accounts and the work of the U.S. documentary photographer Paula Allen. As a lifelong science-fiction buff who read Jules Verne classics as a boy, Guzman said the Atacama observatories had long "commanded my attention. They are the world's biggest machines for observing the elemental past."
The film, which won the European Film Award for documentary and played at last year's Cannes Film Festival, did not make the shortlist to be considered for the feature documentary Oscar.
Among the other winners, the IDA named Sara Nesson's "Poster Girl," about Iraqi war veteran Robynn Murray, best short, and on the television front, the best limited series honor went to "Boomtown" on cable's Planet Green. The long-running PBS documentary showcase "POV" won the best continuing series award.
The career achievement award was presented to Les Blank, and Danfung Dennis, director of "Hell and Back Again," received the Jacqueline Donnet emerging filmmaker award. "Guanape Sur" won the David L. Wolper student documentary award; "Position Among the Stars" won the Humanitas Documentary Award; "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth" took home the ABC News videosource award; and "The Last Mountain" won the Pare Lorentz award.
Best cinematography honors went to Massimo D’Anolfi for his film "Il Castello," while "Senna," director Asif Kapadia's film about race car driver Ayrton Senna, earned the best editing prize for Chris King & Gregers Sall and "Better This World" won the best music award for Paul Brill.
-- Susan King
Photo: Patricio Guzman. Credit: Icarus Films/AP