Latin American films about indigenous people: a look at a population that has been forgotten

Every year, films about a social group that almost nobody speaks of, indigenous people, are made. Here you will find five Latin American examples that you can not miss

Latin American films about indigenous people: a look at a population that has been forgotten

The indigenous population is one of the richest in culture and traditions, as well as one of the least represented. According to a report by the United Nations (UN) on the rights of indigenous peoples, "many indigenous peoples continue to suffer extreme poverty and are subject to discrimination and exclusion from political and economic power. Their beliefs, cultures, languages ​​and ways of life are threatened to such an extent that they can become extinct". However, every year films are made that seek to vindicate this community of which almost nobody speaks, through stories that tell the reality of this population that seems to have been forgotten.

Leer en español: Películas latinas sobre indígenas: una mirada hacia una población de la que casi nadie habla

On August 2, Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego's Summer Birds will premiere in theaters in Colombia. This film, which was released worldwide at the International Film Festival of Cannes 2018, is a clear example of this struggle for the vindication of this social group. A group that represents 5% of the total population, that is, of the more than 7 billion people that inhabit the planet, approximately 370 million are indigenous, according to the UN report. For that reason, here are some Latin American films about indigenous that you have to see:

Huicholes: the last guardians of peyote (2014)

This is a Mexican documentary directed and written by Hernán Vilchez that tells the reality of Clemente Ramírez, also known within his community as Uweni Temai, and his family. Clemente belongs to the Wixáritari or Huicholes, an indigenous people that "despite the Spanish conquest and the advance of Mexican mestizo society maintains its culture, its rites, its ancestral way of life," he explains.

According to the official page of the documentary, Huicholes is "an urgent story about the Wixárika people, one of the last living Prehispanic cultures in Latin America, and their struggle against the Mexican government and transnational mining corporations to preserve Wirikuta, its most sacred territory, where it grows the peyote, the ancestral medicine that keeps alive the knowledge of this emblematic town of Mexico".

Icaros (2014)

Icaros is a documentary directed and written by the Argentinean Georgina Barreiros, which tells the story of Mokan Rono, who "takes his path in the ancient knowledge of ayahuasca, guided by a wise shaman and his mother, curandera teacher", according to IMDb. According to this page, "Icaros explores the spiritual universe of the Shipibo people that live on the banks of the Ucayali River, one of the main tributaries of the Peruvian Amazon."

Barreiros explains to the Chilean newspaper El Mostrador that in the film she wanted to focus on "the richness of the spiritual universe of the Shipibos and highlight the value of their culture", because for her it is important "to make known and spread the depth of these traditions. I wanted to talk about the family, the mother-child bond, which is so universal".

Read also: Five Latin American filmmakers you should know

Ixcanul (2015)

This is a Guatemalan drama film, directed and written by Jayro Bustamante and produced by La casa de producción, Tu Vas Voir Productions. Ixcanul tells the story of María, a teenager belonging to the Maya Kakchiquel community, an indigenous people of the country of eternal spring. The young woman, who lives with her parents at the foot of a volcano and who wants to know that magical place that lies behind the mountains, is forced to marry Pepe.

According to FilmAffinity, "María will try to change her destiny despite her condition as an indigenous woman." However, "a complication with her pregnancy will force her to leave in search of a hospital: the modern world with which she dreamed so much will save her life, but at a price too high", says the synopsis. According to the Los Angeles Times, "For Bustamante, who spent much of his youth in the Guatemalan highlands with his mother, a medical worker, the film was a way to address a part of society with little social capital: indigenous people and women".

The inflated jungle (2015)

This is a Colombian documentary directed by Alejandro Naranjo, which exposes the sad and alarming problems facing the indigenous peoples of the coffee country, more specifically young people: suicide. "The Colombian Amazon is suffering a wave of suicides among the indigenous youth of their ancestral communities, the thick green of this jungle also reached the capital, the city and its men of light skin.They are different cultures in the frenetic friction of our time, it is a generation of young people born of this encounter who are hanging themselves before the mirages of a foreign world", as explained in the synopsis presented by Proimágenes Colombia.

However, according to Vice, "the documentary does not make complaints, nor is it interested in gathering opinions from experts on the subject or statistics on the economic or social situation of the indigenous people. Alejandro told me that, for him, the important thing was to concentrate in the individual history of the indigenous youth and reflect, in a more contemplative way, their daily lives in Mitu. "

Wiñaypacha (2017)

Wiñaypacha is a Peruvian film directed, written and photographed by Óscar Catacora, which tells the story of Willka and Phaxsi, an elderly couple living alone in the Andes of Peru, after their son Antuku abandoned them. This couple are hoping that the wind can return their son home to help them, although this is a dream that is increasingly distant and impossible. "I think he will never come back – for me, those big cities have changed our son," Willka tells his wife. In turn, she says: "One day he told me: 'To speak Aymara is shameful'. So he said".

According to Catacora in an interview with Perú.21, "Wiñaypacha is a film related to the identity of the man of the Andes and is in that language: the Aymara language, and it is oriented for that Andean population, for that person who wants to be reflected with With that identity, remember that Peru is populated by the largest number of people who come from the Andean areas to the city".

LatinAmerican Post | Diana Rojas Leal

Translated from "Películas latinas sobre indígenas: una mirada hacia una población de la que casi nadie habla"

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