by Alberto de Agostini
silent, black & white, 62 min, 2007 (filmed 1928)
As a child, Father Alberto de Agostini dreamed of Tierra del Fuego, inspired by his brother Juan, publisher of the book Tierra del Fuego, and Don Bosco, founder of the Salesian order. After becoming a Salesian himself, Father de Agostini studied geography. In 1910 he finally fulfilled his dream, settling in Punta Arenas, where he lived until 1958. During these years he assiduously explored the region, discovering the unknown zones, such as the Ice Fields; baptizing creeks and hills; establishing maps and simultaneously filming these places. In 1945 he published The Andes of Patagonia. De Agostini filmed and photographed the last survivors of several ethnic groups.
Available for the first time in the US, de Agostini's 1928 film Patagonia documents the daily lives of the three native groups who inhabited Tierra del Fuego between Chile and southern Argentina: the Onas, the Alacalufes, and the Tehuelches. Featuring life amidst a rough terrain of rocky ice-capped mountains, majestic glaciers, and thunderous rapids, the film presents an early record of their hunting methods, healing rituals, clothes and basket making and way of life. Alberto also shows the colonization of Tierra del Fuego, from a rocky frigid terrain into an area with newly paved roads and agricultural productivity.