Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest place in the world—a clearly identifiable patch of brown when viewed from space. The thin air and absence of moisture make this an ideal location for the astronomers and archaeologists who are respectively trying to solve the secrets of the cosmos and the region’s original inhabitants.
While their work goes on, a group of women who have been here for many years dig for the remains of their loved ones. These political opponents of General Pinochet’s regime were arrested between 1973 and 1990, and subsequently “disappeared” in the vast concentration camp in the desert.
Director Patricio Guzmán, who managed to flee Chile in 1973, juxtaposes these two worlds. The magnificent, meditative shots of a gigantic telescope, the infinite starry sky, and the vast vistas of rugged rock formations and rivers of sand and stone are combined with intimate conversations with the scientists and with those left behind. They are all looking for answers at the place where heaven meets hell.