July 28th? Yup. July 28th. Otherwise known as Peruvian Independence Day. It’s been a little over two years since I moved to the U.S., so in view that I can’t spend the holiday with my countrymen (and countrywomen?), I decided to check out some Peruvian movies. And in case you are also curious about Peruvian cinema, I got good news for you, there are actually some pretty good Preuvian movies that you can stream on you computer right now. Here are a couple of recommendations of…
Peruvian Movies You Can Stream on Netflix Right Now
The Milk of Sorrow (La teta asustada – 2009) This is probably the most well-know Peruvian film among international cinephiles. Director Claudia Llosa’s second feature became the first Peruvian movie to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, and the first Peruvian movie to be nominated for the Foreign Language Film Oscar (it lost to Argentina’s The Secret in Their Eyes). It’s the story of a woman named Fausta (Magaly Solier), who is suffering from “la teta asustada”, which superstitious beliefs say is a disease transmitted through the milk of a mother who was abused or raped during the pregnancy. It’s a quiet and delicate movie. I haven’t seen it in quite some time, but still remember some of its most powerful moments. It was kind of a big deal back when it premiered in Peru in 2009. Mainstream audiences were divided on the film (some find it fascinating, some couldn’t see what the big deal was). I would definitely recommend it. I mean, it’s without a doubt the most essential movie for anyone who is curious about contemporary Peruvian cinema.
Undertow (Contracorriente – 2010) The success of The Milk of Sorrow was followed by a series of movies that seemed to announce some sort of Peruvian cinematic new wave. That dream didn’t quite become a reality, but there is no doubt that Javier Fuentes-León’s Undertow is one of the best movies that came out during this period. It’s set on a seaside village in Northern Peru, and belongs in the quintessentially Latin American genre of magic realism, as a gay fisherman who is afraid to come out of the closet sees his lover come back from the dead in an incredibly touching love story. So, Peruvian Ghost meets Brokeback Mountain? Or Brokeback Ocean, as I called it when it premiered? Well, yeah, kind of, but that would be a very reductive way of looking at a movie that feels as authentic and genuine as this one does. Undertow is also notable for having won the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Madeinusa (2006) This is Claudia Llosa’s first feature, which tells the story of a young girl named Madeinusa (again, Magaly Solier), who lives in an incredibly religious village in the Peruvian Mountains, where a lot of questionable rituals and traditions are performed every year without protest. Well, at least until the arrival of a city boy named Salvador, who takes a special interest in the titular girl. Now, this movie might not be as celebrated as the ones that came after it, but it’s definitely the one that started it all. I remember, because up to this point Peruvian cinema right before this point had been regarded as largely mediocre, and then suddenly, there was a Peruvian that wasn’t just good, it was actually pretty great. Llosa is still the most important auteurist voice of Peruvian cinema, and Madeinusa is an incredibly interesting movie. Some say even better than the more popular Milk of Sorrow.
The Bad Intentions (Las malas intenciones – 2011) This is the first feature by filmmaker Rosario Garcia-Montero, and Peru’s official entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2011. The film wasn’t nominated, and I can’t say that I’m surprised. Not only did it not have that much buzz around it, it’s also kind of a weird sit. I’m not a big fan of the movie, which felt a little too over-the-place for my taste. However, it’s particular dark tone -this is the story of a girl fascinated with doomed historical figures who decides she is going to die on the day her brother will be born- is certainly unique, and it features some pretty interesting visuals because this movie, again, features elements of magical realism. Anyway, I would treat this one with a grain of salt, I only would recommend it to those who are really curious to watch more movies after the three I mentioned above.