Utama the forgotten land: surviving in a dying world – Reforme.net

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By Sophie Esposito

Beautiful and painful, Utama the Forgotten Land, director Alejandro Loayza Grisi’s debut feature, is a meditation on legacy, loss and change in the high plains of Bolivia in a time of global warming.

Bolstered by an artistic career in photography, the Bolivian director Alejandro Loayza Grisi triumphed at Sundance (Grand Jury Prize) and at the Malaga Festival with Utama the forgotten landa sensitive, existentialist and mystical first feature film which stages a family trio of Quechua Indians in the remote, immense and arid landscapes of the Altiplano, the Peruvian-Bolivian high plains, where global warming is hitting.

Here the sun beats down and despite the ceremonies and ancestral rituals, the rain does not fall. There is no more ice in the surrounding mountains, the wells are dry, the village pump is empty and the last stream is inexorably drying up. Driven out by drought, the majority of the inhabitants have already migrated north to the cities. For years, however, Sisa (81) and Virginio (80) have refused to give up. In their rudimentary and isolated little house, the couple faces this climatic hostility with patient sobriety: she takes care of the household and brings in water, he takes care of their herd of llamas. They have always lived like that, from their harvests and livestock. But Virginio coughs more and more, Sisa walks further and further, the ground is all cracked and the lamas are thirsty… Why don’t they move, asks them Clever (23 years old) who has come from the city to stay for a while with His grand-parents. What hides this resistance, this stubbornness?

Story of love and death

In Utama the forgotten land, story of love and death, of confrontation between tradition and modernity, the filmmaker uses the codes of a minimalist western (spectacular sets, long tracking shots, wide shots or close-ups on faces, heady music) to evoke the urgency ecological. To embody the octogenarian couple, he was able to find marvelous non-professional actors (José Calcina and Luisa Quispe). Their weathered features, their looks, their modest silences, the small gestures of their daily life mean so much more than the rare words they utter that – when these occur – they act in depth. Like when Virgino speaks to his grandson about the death of the condor, the sacred and protective animal of the mountain in danger of extinction. When he feels that he is no longer useful, that he can no longer fly, he returns to his nest perched at the top of the mountain, folds his wings and drops straight onto a rock, and dies.…” Filled with symbols, this polished aesthetic film tells us very clearly about a cycle that is coming to an end, about the beauty of the human bond with nature and the importance of forging stronger bonds.

Sophie Esposito

Utama, the forgotten land by Alejandro Loayza Grisi, Condor1h27, in theaters on May 11.

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Utama the forgotten land: surviving in a dying world – Reforme.net

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