travelogue of Valparaiso, Chile, a city built on steep hills. Life is a constant struggle against geography. Neighbourhoods are reached by series of ramps, staircases, and funicular railway elevators. The poorest residents on the hilltops have trouble obtaining water for drinking and washing. There are community dances, a travelling circus, a race course. Boys feed the harbour sealions; a fashionable woman walks her penguin. The ever-present onshore breeze provides fresh air and an ideal environment for kite-flying. The film's second half is in colour, making the switch with the tale of the city's bloody pirate past.

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