Pablo Neruda is a global icon, the rare poet who is a household name. But few really know much about the flesh-and-blood man behind the poems. This documentary project is the first feature-length documentary in English to take an immediate, intimate look at the intense life of the Nobel Prize–winning writer, cherished by millions around the world.
This riveting, lyrical film traces his evolution from a shy, sickly, rural Chilean boy who loved to lose himself in nature to his place on the world stage as a renowned poet and political activist who filled stadiums and concert halls throughout Europe and the Americas. As rich and accessible as Neruda’s best-loved works, our film will demonstrate art’s power to stimulate emotions and broaden perspectives.
We explain Neruda’s deep political contradictions and explore his darker side, especially some of his disturbing acts with women. How do we reconcile one of the greatest love poet's acts of misogyny? As with Picasso and many others, how do we separate the artist from his art, or do we?
The documentary will also highlight the relevance of Neruda's life and poetry today. For instance, as resistance increasingly becomes the operative word in our current political reality, what can Neruda, one of the most important and iconic resistance poets of the past century, offer us now?
More About the Film
As the best-selling novelist Julia Alvarez wrote on seeing excerpts from the film-in-progress, “This documentary will give us our Neruda, vigorously, diversely, enchantingly brought back to life.”
Julia also said that Mark Eisner, the developer of the project, "is not just a poet himself, a biographer of Neruda, a translator and an editor of an anthology of translations of Neruda poetry, but he is also a man whose passion for Neruda makes him the ideal lens through which to immerse ourselves in the life of the poet and his times.”
Mark has spent most of the past two decades collecting a treasure trove of materials for this film, working on projects related to Pablo Neruda. Most recently, in March 2018, Ecco/HarperCollins published Mark’s biography, "Neruda: The Poet's Calling." Library Journal called "a definitive biography, an instant classic." According to bestselling novelist Cristina García, the book "reads like a beautifully written novel.”
The film is built around two key elements. The first is a series of priceless interviews with more than a dozen of Neruda’s closest personal friends and associates in Chile, the people who witnessed his most important moments and knew his secrets. These are augmented by interviews with internationally known writers, such as the legendary poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Pulitzer Prize–winning author Ariel Dorfman; top Neruda scholars; and—in a nod to Neruda’s practice of taking poetry to the streets—ordinary Chileans, such as students and train workers, who shed light on the lasting impact of “The People’s Poet.” In response to the results of the 2016 US Presidential elections, the film will emphasize how the poetry and history of last century’s consummate “People’s Poet” are especially relevant now. The parallels between his story as a populist poet of resistance and progressive resistance in the current political climate will be thought-provoking, educational, and emotional.
The second key element is Neruda’s poetic voice itself. Many of his poems were autobiographical, and his poetry—as heard in both rare archival recordings of Neruda and new readings by actors—will drive the film’s narrative. Some voiceovers will play over stunning footage of Chile’s rich landscape—the misty forests, snowcapped volcanoes, glacial lakes, and roiling ocean that were the nutrients of Neruda’s poetic sensibility—as well as of the three unique homes he designed and filled with his surreal, highly personal collections of oddities. Other readings will be filmed as stylized, dynamic set pieces, with the performers on camera, to bring the poems to the screen in a fresh way.
Seldom seen archival footage and photos will round out the story of the private and public man. And an original soundtrack by the Latin jazz fusion group Quijeremá (led by the award-winning musician Quique Cruz, who grew up near Neruda’s iconic ship-shaped home in Isla Negra) will add a primal, ethereal mood. The filmmaker’s aim is to immerse viewers in a poetic experience as sensuous and rich as Neruda’s most loved works.
The project is nearing the post-production process. Over the past decade we have sourced an extensive amount of archival material from all corners of the world and shot hours of fantastic material. There is little left to shoot, mainly just three additional enticing, engaging, dynamic enactments of Neruda’s poems to be portrayed on the screen and woven into the narrative.
Then we will fine-tune the story and begin the vast editing process, artistically assembling all the visual material so that it brings out the narrative in the most captive way, evoking the poetic essence of Neruda. From there, with proper funding we’ll be able to accomplish the final post-production steps dealing with sound design, color correction, graphic design, mastering, etc. It is a serious investment of time, resources, and finances, and we are certain it will be worth it.