It’s hard to believe that more than a month has passed since the Tracking Patagonia crew toured its namesake region. Back in January I sat on the floor of the Los Angeles airport, wondering about documentary film as a way to cross the boundary between oneself and others. It has taken me quite a while to digest and dissect this idea in relation to the return trip to Patagonia. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to provide a concise analysis of the emotions tied up in the documentary filmmaking process, but as we move ever forward and set our sights on screenings and festivals here in the states, I feel that a reflective Patagonia chapter must be written.
Our return tour of Aysén takes us to many places and environments, and frankly, it is the first time I see Tracking Patagonia outside of my editing corner. We project it on the wall of production coordinator Anne Hedderman’s bedroom, and her face is a canvas of emotions as she watches the familiar scenes on screen for the first time.
We borrow a sheet from the local health clinic in Cerro Castillo and string it up on the side of a truck in the town plaza. As the night grows cold and spitting rain descends from the mountain, locals zip their jackets up tighter and brave the wind until the credits roll.
Our tour takes us to many of the same houses we once visited while hungry, tired, and looking to shoot an interview. We return to Werner and Ninoska’s home for homemade bread and jam, and to Valeria’s kitchen in Tortel to once again dry our jackets and shoes by the woodstove. We catch Don Lalo just as he and his family are packing bottles of fresh milk and cheese to bring into town. He promises with his characteristic wit to watch his copy and promptly contact me with the inevitable criticisms and complaints.
At one of our largest screenings, at the Café Ricer in Coyhaique, I find myself fielding questions from a very engaged crowd at the documentary’s conclusion. The resounding question that seems to plague everyone in attendance is not about the dams or water rights, but about how and why is it that a bunch of foreigners have made a documentary that shows them just how beautiful and special their own home is?
They ask, “Why you and not us?”
Perhaps it is because we come from a privileged life where dreams like documentary filmmaking replace worries about daily survival.
Perhaps we have found something here in this land that we felt had been lacking in our own lives.
Perhaps we want to somehow return the kindness and hospitality that the people of Patagonia have given us.
As I think back to drinking mate with Don Lalo or trying to explain my Macbook to Don Cecilio, to seeing the Baker River thorough Yoanni’s eyes, or to dancing the first awkward steps of a chamamé, it dawns on me. Perhaps, as strangers in a foreign land, we are simply looking for a way to connect.