‘I need to make this love story’: documenting the radical dementia care of a pioneering reporter

In a profoundly intimate film, director Maite Alberdi follows an influential Chilean journalist and his partner as they navigate life after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis

At the start of the Chilean documentary The Eternal Memory, a woman asks her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, if he likes his life. He beams back at her. “I love life.” The couple will be instantly recognisable to audiences in Chile. He is Augusto Góngora, a journalist who was part of an underground television news service during the Pinochet dictatorship. Out on the streets he filmed the reality of life under military rule – at huge personal risk. The group’s bulletins, recorded on VHS tapes, were passed from house to house across the country. When Chile returned to democracy, Góngora became an influential figure on public television. His partner of 25 years, Paulina Urrutia, is a famous stage and screen actor. In 2014, aged 62, Góngora was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The Eternal Memory documents the pair’s final years together, as Urrutia becomes his full-time carer.

Surprisingly, it’s a tender and ultimately joyful portrait of a couple still madly in love. The film’s director, Maite Alberdi, nods, smiling. “Yes. It’s a story that is tragic on paper but not in reality. In the years I shot with them, I never left feeling sad.”

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