Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Trip to Timbuktu (orig. Viaje a Tombuctú) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing

Official Website

Press articles*

Trip to Timbuktu (orig. Viaje a Tombuctú) [2013] (screenplay written and directed by Rossana Díaz Costa, an assistant professor of Communications Sciences at the University of Lima) is a Peruvian film telling the story of two young people Ana and Lucho, who grew-up, middle class, in Lima during the Guerrilla War in Peru of the 1980s-90s between the government and Shining Path and MRTA guerrillas.

The film was shot largely in the seaside Lima neighborhood where Ms Diaz Costa grew-up with most of the actors being her students as well as children from the neighborhood. The film played recently at the 30th Chicago Latino Film Festival

The film serves as a very good reminder to viewers of the tens of millions, probably hundreds of millions of people across the planet growing-up in immediately recognizable middle class circumstances -- Both Ana's and Lucho's parents were educated.  Their fathers both worked in offices "downtown." And as both Ana/Lucho matured, they entered University.  However, neither family was "super rich" either: Ana's family did have one, older somewhat beat-up car.  Neither family had "servants." And Ana's grandparents (presumably Ana's father's parents) lived with them in their townhouse home throughout the whole of the story (which spanned Ana's childhood and into her 20s)  -- Yet their circumstances were also _different_ from the experience of most others growing up in such middle class circumstances.  In the case of Ana / Lucho, they grew-up in Peru during the very brutal insurgency war of the 1980s-90s

That insurgency did wear on everyone's lives: One simply had to travel everywhere, at all times, "with one's papers."  Curfews came to be imposed and even largely followed out of common sense.  No one in his/her right mind wanted to be "outside on their own" in the countryside or a neighborhood they did not know long after dark.  People learned the difference in sounds between harmless celebratory fireworks and gunshots, explosions and even artillery rounds (There's an excellent and very unnerving scene at the beginning of the film that drives this point home).  Electricity routinely went out across city and countryside depending on what substations and transmission facilities were attacked and when.  Lucho's father was wounded as a result of a car bomb explosion downtown one day...

Yet this is not a "The Communist insurgents were bad ..." sort of a film.  Ana, Lucho and their friends/families, all knew where they lived, where as Lucho put it: "Half the country is dirt poor..."

It's just that IT DIDN'T MATTER what anyone thought or did.  THE BOMBS WENT OFF EVERYDAY -- 1, 2, 5, 10 A DAY -- ANYWAY.  The authorities were AFRAID OF EVERYONE because in the middle of the insurgency EVERYONE FIT _SOME_ "PROFILE" whether being "a poor Communist peasant" or "a rich Communist hippie" or "a rich Communist elitist," or even "the (faux) naive wife/daughter of a rich Communist hippie or elitist" ... The only thing that kept one "safe" at a police/military checkpoint was keeping a smile, keeping one's hands up / visible and "having one's papers in order."  And being pulled out of a bus and "taken to the the station" for NOT "having one's papers in order" was a LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE for all.

In response to this constant pressure of truly "living in a war zone," what many Peruvians who had the means did (and many others who did not have the means at least imagined) was to leave Peru for destinations "far away" (hence the film's title ...)

So this is a pretty gut-wrenching film.   Yet it is quite soberly done, and could give millions of 30-40 year old Peruvians living across the world a way of explaining to their non-Peruvian friends (and their own children...) what it was like to live and grow-up in Peru in the 1980s-90s.

Honestly, an excellent film!

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

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