Saturday, April 5, 2014

Insurgents (orig. Insurgentes) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

Official website* (S. Morales) review*
NoticiasDesdeBolivia review*

Insurgents (orig. Insurgentes) [2013] (written and directed by Jorge Sanjinés) is a Bolivian docudrama that played recently at the 30th Chicago Latino Film Festival.  Jumping backwards and forwards in time across centuries, it chronicles the battle of Bolivia's indigenous peoples (the majority) for dignity and respect in their own country up until the recent election of Evo Morales the first President of Bolivia to come from the country's indigenous (Aymara) population.

This intentionally non-linear  approach actually helps the viewer appreciate how attitudes and circumstances both change (and don't ...) across time.  For instance, near the beginning of the film there's a scene in which the idle rich of Bolivia of the colonial period discuss the then philosophical trends in Europe, with one noting that all the major philosophers of Europe have considered the indigenous populations the Americas to be less-than-human and that Immanuel Kant even declared them "destined for extinction."  Near the end of the film, the idle rich of Bolivia today, sit sipping drinks at a country club at a golf course, sharing notes on the relative virtues of German and Japanese engineering, the only difference being that their conversation is interrupted by the televised inaugural address of Evo Morales.  Presumably things will now be changing ...

Yet the centuries long struggle has not proven to be easy.  Whether by means of insurrection/war for independence -- indigenous leaders Túpac Kateri (played in the film by Froilán Paucara) and his wife Bartonina Sisa (played in the film by Mónica Bustillos) organized an army of indigenous peasants that laid a months long siege to Bolivia's capital La Paz decades before Bolivia won its independence (an independence of a "different kind" as its Declaration was not signed by a single person from the indigenous peoples) -- or by utterly peaceful means -- Santos Marka Tula (played in the film by Primitivo Gonzales) who was murdered for simply seeking to build schools in indigenous areas -- the cards were stacked against the indigenous peoples by the European descended Criolos who simply considered themselves racially superior to their indigenous neighbors.

Indeed, it was noted in the film that actually under Spanish colonial rule, the Spanish RESPECTED the concept of "community owned" indigenous lands.  AFTER "INDEPENDENCE" ownership of these communal lands was transferred over to INDIVIDUAL, usually already rich CRIOLO (white), owners.

This "land grabbing" in guise of "fighting for independence" is, of course, not unique to Bolivia.  Nor was white settler opposition to the construction of schools for indigenous communities.  What happened to the indigenous lands in Bolivia also happened to the lands of the Franciscan Missions in California following Mexico's independence.  Again, while the lands were run at the top by the Franciscan Friars, the lands of the Franciscan Missions in California were actually run communally with the indigenous peoples who lived there.  After Mexico won independence, these lands were stripped from the Franciscans (and the indigenous people who lived there) and handed over to already rich, usually European descended "white folk" from Mexico.  Then a good part of the first decades of my own religious order's, the Servites', mission in KwaZulu (Zululand) in South Africa was the building of then clandestine schools in opposition to the demands of the Apartheid government of the time, which wanted us there to "baptize" the Zulu people but certainly _not_ to educate them.  (So in defiance of the Apartheid regime we built our schools there clandestinely ...).
 In any case the injustices visited upon the indigenous MAJORITY of Bolivia over the centuries resulted in the recurrence of unrest and insurrections against the status quo up through to the election of Morales.

Will things improve?  Time will tell.  However, at least for this time, for the first time since the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1500s, an indigenous Aymara is actually the President of his own country.  And to most people that would be cause for celebration.

How then is the film?  ;-)  It's made in a docudrama format, hence with narration and actors dressed in period clothes dramatizing the various scenes described.  The sets, mostly outdoors, and costuming are of top quality.  Indeed, most viewers would certainly appreciate the beauty and color existent in the indigenous cultures of Bolivia and honestly come to lament the poverty caused to all involved by the ideology of racism that refused to allow the white Criolos to appreciate the cultural richness and beauty of the indigenous people with whom, like it or not, they shared their lives.

A beautiful and thought provoking film!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.  

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