The Eternal Memory chronicled the final years in the life of Chilean journalist Augusto Góngora. He died in June, five months after the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Director Maite Alberdi felt she not only captured his final years with wife Paulina Urrutia, but also the Chilean history that dictators like Augusto Pinochet tried to erase.
“During the dictatorship, there was that very small group of people that made clandestine newscasts to report on everything that was happening in the country,” Alberdi said at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary event. “It’s the only archive that we have of dictatorship, the important one, the people that were in the street with the camera and they took that risk. Then [Góngora] wrote a book about how to preserve that historical memory with a speech about political memory.”
Alberdi said it was a paradox that the leader of Chilean national memory himself succumbed to the memory disease Alzheimer’s. However, even though Góngora lost access to many of the details, she said she could tell he still remembered going through Pinochet’s rule.
“There were things that remained in his body until the end,” Alberdi said. “He never forgets his pain of dictatorship. He never forgets his job, the things that he loves for the job, the books. He never forgets her.”
Urrutia kept Góngora engaged with her activities and other people. Alberdi said that gave her a more optimistic view of Alzheimer’s.
“Alzheimer’s was only a challenge, not a tragedy,” Alberdi said. “All the people that work with Paulina were helping her to take care. She was not alone in that situation, before Covid of course, but she tried to be in the world. That’s helped him to not deteriorate so fast and he deteriorated very slow because he was in the world.”
Góngora still retained some specific memories of his marriage.
“He said, ‘I do not remember how many years we have been together,’” Alberdi said. “He cannot remember that, but a couple of minutes after she asks him, ‘Do we have kids?’ ‘No, because you didn’t want it.’ He remembered that and that was his pain and the pain is there. The pain of dictatorship, it’s there.”
Alberdi said Chileans especially loved The Eternal Memory, from Paramount+ and MTV Documentary Films, because Góngora and Urrutia are well known in the country; the film topped Barbie at the box office when it opened in the territory.
Alberdi hopes audiences everywhere appreciate that memory consists of more than just dates and historic events.
“You can forget information, you can forget dates,” Alberdi said, “but you’re not going to forget the emotions.”
Check back Tuesday for the panel video.