Reviews of Madeinusa and Ten Canoes
Since I wrote a
preview for the festival’s Cinemedia sidebar, I became curious
about many of the films, particularly the obscure ones we don’t
often get the chance to see. This weekend, I caught two of the
series’ selections: Madeinusa, filmed
in Peru, and Ten Canoes, one
of sidebar’s indigenous fare.
I brought an archaeologist friend who works in Peru with me to
the Madeinusa screening
on Friday morning, to get a bit of an insiders’ perspective on the
country (albeit a gringo insider). Not very many films come out of Peru,
according to the Cinemedia
curator Cristina Venegas, which made me even more curious.
Claudia Llosa wrote, directed, and produced this drama, her
first feature film. It’s been capturing attention around the fest
circuit, where it received accolades at the Sundance,
Tribeca, and Edinburgh, among other film fests. While
beautifully shot, poignant, well-acted, and compelling, the film
(whose making-of film is below) has a dark face, as the main
subjects are those uncomfortable themes we’d often like to forget:
incest, murder, blame, lust, theft, debauchery, and jealously.
These are themes God would also like to stay away from viewing,
and in the story, he does. The film centers around the “Holy Time,”
the interval between Jesus’s death on the cross on Good Friday and
his Easter Sunday resurrection and the ensuing religious
celebration in a remote, high plateau Peruvian village. Madeinusa,
the name of the conflicted protagonist, is the young girl whose
sexual awakening takes place when God is dead.
This is the ceremonial time when Jesus’s likeness is removed from
the church. Since God is not looking, the villagers enter a time of
sanctioned chaos, when women choose their sexual partners, young
virgins could be deflowered by their father, and chaos and revelry
ensue. An old man with a flip chart serves as the clock, counting
minutes in the time square.
Outsiders, even Peruvians from the city of Lima, are suspect and
not welcome. This is both for the villagers’ comfort and the
strangers’ safety. In confusion, people often seek scapegoats, an
unhappy fate for the one so named. In the film, Salvador, played by
Carlos de la
Torre, is a geologist hitching a ride to a mountain mine, who
becomes stranded for the weekend in the Cordillera Blanca mountain
range village. Initially locked up (for everyone’s protection,
including his own), he ventures forth to enter the chaos and
becomes entangled in the life of Madeinusa. Story has it that the
actress who played the title role,
Magaly Solier, was discovered by Llosa in a marketplace. A
highland resident, this was her first acting role, one she
portrayed chillingly well. Her father was played by Peruvian comic
Ubaldo Huaman, convincing and sometimes creepy. Not for the faint
of heart, Madeinusa explores the darker secrets from which
we want God to turn his head.
There is only one more screening of this film:
Wednesday, January 31, Metro 4, at 7 p.m.
(opening sequence below), directed by Rolf de Heer and
takes us to the other side of the world, the Australian outback, in
an indeterminate time of aboriginal history. Alternately funny and tragic, and
sometimes both at once, this rambling tale is told by an older
brother to a younger, while on a hunting trip.
The story of the hunting trip itself — as we follow the men
strip bark, build canoes, venture into the swamp, and hunt geese
and geese eggs — is a visual feast. The black and white imagery and
the sing-song tale-telling of the eldest brother transport us to
the outback. As we segue back and forth from one story to the
other, we glimpse the interrelationships among families. The older
brother in both stories supports three wives, the youngest of which
is admired by his unmarried younger brother.
Hidden glimpses and jealous glances, warriors positioning
themselves among other villages, and the ubiquity of sorcery all
play a role in the stories. We’re left with a wry resolution at the
end, with the thought that the story continues.