Meet Augusto Góngora: Chilean journalist who reported on corruption and violence during Augusto Pinochet’s presidency, father of two and husband of Paulina Urrutia Fernández, an actress, activist and former Minister of the National Council of Culture and the Arts of Chile.
Augusto, who has Alzheimer’s disease, often can’t remember any of this.
The Eternal Memory, directed by Academy Award nominee Maite Alberdi, is a deep dive into Augusto and Paulina’s daily lives. Recent footage, much filmed at the height of the COVID pandemic, is mixed with footage of the couple’s and the country’s past. The film relates Augusto’s work writing about Chile’s cultural history that Pinochet attempted to suppress with his own memory loss.
“Without memory, we don’t know who we are,” he wrote.
That is definitely the case for Augusto, who often doesn’t recognize himself in the mirror. In the first scene, Paulina reminds Augusto of who she is and that they’ve known each other 20 years. She later explains they built their house together, helps him shave and shower, reads to him, and attempts to rekindle his memories of their past experiences. She also deals with Augusto’s erratic behavior, often late at night. We see how frustrating Augusto’s memory loss is for him, and how in-the-moment it seems when a painful memory of the past comes back. Balancing acting with caring for her husband and other responsibilities, Paulina’s frustrations come out as well. As much as The Eternal Memory is a story about the patient’s hardships, it’s about the caregiver’s struggles.
It’s also a love story. We learn how the couple met and became married, and share romantic moments with them. Love, it seems, is one thing that can trigger Augusto’s ability to recall his life.
Compelling and informative, The Eternal Memory serves as a great educational resource. Those with little exposure or knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease can see an undaunted example of the anguish it can bring. Unfortunately, it doesn’t inspire much hope for others facing the disease.
The Eternal Memory is screened in Spanish with English subtitles. It plays again on Jan. 26 at Redstone Cinemas and Jan. 27 at the Park Avenue Theatre in Park City. Visit Sundance’s website for more info.
To support research to help fight Alzheimer’s disease, join the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s at America First Field in Sandy on Sept. 30. Registration is free, and donations can be made in any amount.