The history of cinema in Latin America is vast and truculent; in Peru, the first cinema projection took place around 1897, in Lima, only two years after the Lumiere brothers presented their novel device, the cinematograph, at the premises of the Society for the Promotion of Industry in Paris.
Since then, production in that country has been rich, and has closely followed the tribulations of its history; from traveling screenings, to the Iquitos cinema, to the post-war Shining Path cinema, Peru has maintained a healthy and constant production of films.
Although it is only recently that Peru has been placed on the international cultural map of the seventh art, supported also by the creation of the Latin American Film Encounter, whose first edition was held in 1997, and which ten years later changed its name to the Lima Film Festival, there had been important lights in its national panorama for decades.
With the emergence of the Chaski Group, Peruvian cinema contemplated new forms of creation, and opened an important window to the outside world: Gregorio, 1984, won the “Premio Exterior” at the XI International Ibero-American Film Festival, Madrid; and the Jury Prize at the Third World Film Festival, Switzerland.
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Now let’s find out the name of many films that are entirely Peruvian that are worth watching:
The green wall, 1970
This was the third film by the Peruvian pillar of cinema: Armando Robles Godoy. Set in the years prior to the military dictatorship, and in the midst of the colonization process of the jungle, a man, Mario, decides to leave his urban life behind to embark on the colonization of the green world. Bureaucracy, authorities and colonists will prove to be much greater challenges for the man who will face a tragic end.
It was one of Peru’s first films to receive international recognition. It won three Golden Hugos at the Chicago International Film Festival, and two ACE Awards, including Best Director.
The Mouth of the Wolf, 1988
A very important film for Peruvian history, it portrays in a clear and historically accurate way one of the most violent periods in that country: the heyday of the Shining Path. It chronicles the efforts of a government battalion to maintain control in the village of Chuspi, which is dominated by terrorist violence. The enemy, however, seems invisible.
It won the Jury Prize at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the Coral Award at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana. It was also part of the official selection at the Berlin Film Festival.
This is the first film by the Chaski Group, formed by Fernando Espinoza, Stefan Gaspar and Alejandro Legaspi. It tells the story of Gregorio’s encounter when he and his family migrate from the Peruvian highlands to the indomitable city of Lima. Fate will betray the good intentions of Gregorio’s father, and after he dies, the boy will face life on the street and its dilemmas.
It won awards at the Bogota Film Festival, at the Havana Film Festival, and it was in Madrid that it won the Medio Exterior Award at the International Ibero-American Film Festival.
Four years after its first film, the Chaski Group strikes back with Juliana, another film with a social vision: the little girl runs away from home because of her stepfather’s abuse and faces severe marginalization on the streets. In order to join a gang of indigent children, Juliana decides to cut her hair and dress as a boy.
It won the UNICEF Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Torino International Film Festival.
The Milk of Sorrow, 2009
Claudia Llosa’s second film; it is one of the most recognized films in the Peruvian film industry. It was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards Oscar and for a Silver Ariel for Best Ibero-American Film at the Mexican Academy Awards. It won another dozen awards around the world.
Set during the years of terrorism in Peru, it chronicles Fausta’s efforts against a rare disease called “la teta asustada”, which was transmitted to her through breast milk, and which was believed to infect women who were abused during pregnancy.
Bad Intentions, 2011
On the verge of the terrorist outbreak, Cayetana is confronted with news that shatters her perfect world: her mother is pregnant by her new partner. She becomes convinced that the day her half-brother is born, she will die.
To date, this is the last film by director Rosario García Montero. It was nominated for the Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, and won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival.
Óscar Catacora filmed this important piece entirely in the Aymara language. It debuted at the 2017 edition of the Lima Film Festival, and at the Guadalajara Festival it won three awards, including Best Opera Prima and Best Cinematography.
It narrates the painful wait of a couple of old natives of the Puno region, when their son moves to the city to work. This departure will mark a fateful sign for the old people, who maintain in their language and worldview an ancestral wisdom in danger of being lost.
You can find it on streaming platforms such as Netflix.
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