Friday, April 15, 2011

Chungui, horror sin lágrimas... una Historia Peruana (Chungui, a horror without tears ... a Peruvian story)

Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 stars)

IMDb listing -

 Chungui, horror sin lágrimas... una Historia Peruana (directed by Felipe Degregori) is a Peruvian (Spanish / Quechua language with English subtitles) documentary that recently played at the 2011 Chicago Latino Film Festival about the return of anthropologist Edilberto Jiménez to his native land of Ayacucho in the mountains of central Peru to tell the story of sufferings of the inhabitants of the region of Chungui, a part of the Department of Ayacucho, devastated during the years of the Maoist-inspired Shining Path insurgency (1980-1995)

Interviewing the native people, Jiménez took a page from the famed 16th century native Peruvian chronicler Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala who had included several hundred handmade illustrations in his great work El Primer Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno (First New Chronicle and Good Governance) addressed to the Spanish King to document and protest the mistreatment of the natives of Peru by the Spanish conquistadores.  Thus Jiménez similarly drew dozens of poignant illustrations of the terrors suffered by the inhabitants of Chungui at the hands by the Shining Path as well as Peruvian government counter-insurgency forces

As is often the case in civil wars, the utterly innocent natives were first terrorized by the Shining Path guerrillas into submission and then by government forces for collaborating with them.  Still, the horrors inflicted on the people by the Shining Path were of a category all its own: torturing people by slowly dismembering them and, yes, believe it or not, worse.  How any movement, much less one purporting to be a _progressive_ (a "shining") one, would descend into such a pit of evil is difficult to comprehend.  Yet, the Khmer Rouge (also Maoist in inspiration) in Cambodia perpetrated similar horrors.  Apparently, the "power" that comes "from a barrel of a gun" is a horrific one and the leaders of the Shining Path had lost all discipline over their cadres.

Also featured in the documentary was a Catholic priest, who was slowly rebuilding the devastated churches in the region.  He explained to Jiménez that initially he was restoring the altar pieces in ways featuring traditional Catholic themes.  However, as he heard more and more of the horrors suffered by the people during the Shining Path insurgency, he started to incorporate scenes from their Calvaries in his art as well, the result becoming scenes that could have been out of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) or Dante's Inferno

This movie was not easy to watch and many in the audience when I saw it were in tears.  The contrast between a native people that dresses and decorates its otherwise humble abodes in such bright colors and the blood red horrors that they had to face at the hands of the uniformly black-uniformed Shining Path guerrillas was often difficult to bear.  Yet, Jiménez did not want the world to forget the sufferings of the people of his native land.

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