Arts & Entertainment

Quechua-language film shatters box-office records in Peru

Lima, Mar 3 (EFE).- “Willaq Pirqa” has become the most-watched Quechua-language film in the history of Peruvian cinema, a surprising success story that director Cesar Galindo attributes to its avoidance of the typical cliches surrounding Andean life and culture.

“I think the film has been successful because people aren’t accustomed to seeing human beings in Quechua … who love, suffer, laugh, who have the whole range of emotions that human beings have,” the filmmaker said in an interview with Efe, adding that the Quechua world has typically been associated with sadness, the guerrillas and dire poverty.

Galindo said his goal with the picture, which he first started writing in 2006, was to try to show the Peruvian Andean world as a “living culture.”

The purpose was to convey the idea “that we haven’t disappeared, that we’re not anthropological, or exotic or folkloric beings, that we’re human beings like any other people in the world,” said Galindo, who was born in a small highland town in the southern, largely indigenous department of Ayacucho.

Set in the 1970s, “Willaq Pirqa” tells the story of Sistu, an endearing 10-year-old boy who discovers the magic of cinema in a remote hamlet of the Peruvian Andes.

That discovery creates a major stir in his indigenous community, and the boy is chosen to go every week into town to watch a film and then relay what he has seen in the village square.

But Sistu’s passion for storytelling leads him to create cinema himself and invent his own characters and plots, as well as dialogue in Quechua.

“We have the right to exist with our own culture, to write it with our own hands, to feel it with our own hearts, to speak it in our own language. We have the right to tell our stories,” the filmmaker said.

“Willaq Pirqa,” a picture with elements of comedy and drama that is even part musical, was filmed in different locales of the southern department of Cuzco and is almost entirely spoken in Quechua, although Galindo incorporates Spanish in some scenes to criticize the phenomenon of linguistic imposition in Peru.

For example, he said a scene in which members of Sistu’s community sing the Peruvian national anthem in Spanish “shows the absurdity” of neglected indigenous people living at an elevation of 4,000 meters (13,115 feet) and paying homage to a nation that “doesn’t offer them anything.”

“Why … are we forcing a significant sector of the population to be migrants in their own country?” he asked rhetorically.

More than 80,000 tickets have now been sold since the film premiered on Dec. 8, just one day after leftist President Pedro Castillo, who drew strong support from Peru’s Andean hinterlands, was ousted from office and jailed following his attempt to dissolve Congress and convene a constitutional convention.

Indeed, the screening of the film at movie theaters has coincided with a sharp rise in sociopolitical tensions in Peru, where around 70 people have lost their lives in a wave of anti-government protests by Castillo supporters.

Galindo said he cannot say how big of an impact that social unrest has had on the film’s box-office success, though adding that people may have found the movie to be a sort of “refuge.”

Although the protests have laid bare Peru’s enormous inequalities, the filmmaker noted that all citizens of the Andean nation, regardless of socioeconomic status or place of origin, feel a connection to varying degrees with the country’s ancestral culture. EFE


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