Rethinking the Human, Rethinking the Essay Film: The Ecocritical Work of The Pearl Button

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In the essayistic mode, the performance of selfhood frequently questions the logic of subjectivity and its relation with the world. Taking up this core property of the essay film, this chapter explores its potential to further ecocritical approaches in film studies. It asks how grappling with non-human themes and aesthetics might further complicate and rethink not just the sovereign subject in documentary, but the status of the human more fundamentally. These questions are taken up through a close reading of Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar, Chile, 2015), a f ilm that examines post-dictatorship Chile by criss-crossing multiple spheres of interest, including the events of the military dictatorship, cultures and the impact of colonialism, astronomy, Chilean natural geography, with water as structuring concern across all.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond the Essay Film
Subtitle of host publicationSubjectivity, Textuality and Technology
EditorsJulia Vassilieva, Deane Williams
Place of PublicationAmsterdam The Netherlands
PublisherAmsterdam University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789048543022
ISBN (Print)9789463728706
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameFilm Culture in Transition


  • essay film
  • cosmopolitics
  • water
  • non-human
  • memory
  • humanism

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