The Chacabuco Project - Memoria Desierta

This post is a bit after-the-fact, but I wanted to highlight my old friend/high school classmate, Niles Atallah, who is now an independent filmmaker in Santiago, Chile. Niles filmed a moving documentary, Memoria Desierta, on the desert ghost town and concentration camp, Chacabuco. The film's vivid and saturated colors juxtaposed against the crumbling facade of the camp bring to life the eeriness and loneliness of this desert prison.

Circled by lost landmines and abandoned in the driest desert on earth, the Atacama of northern Chile, Chacabuco is home to one man who has chosen to live there alone. This lone guardian has dedicated himself to re-telling the ghost town’s history as a nitrate mine and Pinochet-era concentration camp.

Memoria Desierta uses the decaying ruins of Chacabuco to explore Chile’s buried collective memory. The film features two ex-political prisoners who re-encounter the former concentration camp for the first time in 30 years as well as the town’s original guardian who now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, despite his years of struggle for public remembrance of Chacabuco.


The documentary premiered at the Desert Nights International Film Festival in Rome, Italy on December 1, 2006.

The Chacabuco Project was created as a means of producing and distributing the documentary Memoria Desierta.

Niles has also worked on various music videos and photography/video art installations in Santiago, Chile. He is currently working on a feature film called, Lucia, which will be completed in February 2009.