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. Pablo Neruda: The People’s Poet 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. Neruda was not just a “people’s poet” but a “poet of resistance,” both through his verse and his courageous acts of defiance off the written page. In the political climate of 2017, these words, this history, is even more urgent.
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, Pablo Neruda: The People’s Poet demonstrates art’s power to stimulate emotions and broaden perspectives.
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.”
More About the Film
Pablo Neruda: The People’s Poet is an up-close, visually poetic portrait of the complex man behind some of the world’s most popular love poems. Filmmaker Mark Eisner is the editor and principal translator of the best-selling edition of Neruda’s poetry in the United States for over a decade, The Essential Neruda (City Lights Books, 2004). He is the author of the forthcoming Pablo Neruda: The Poet’s Calling which novelist Cristina García has called the “definitive biography” on Neruda, one that “reads like a beautifully written novel. Eisner has spent more than ten years collecting a treasure trove of materials for this first full-length English-language documentary of the life of one of the world’s greatest poets.
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 Beat 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. With the necessary financial support and creative contribution, our aim is for it to be ready in late 2017, perhaps timed in conjunction with the publication of Eisner’s breakthrough biography. 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.