So you’ve seen all the Argentine political thrillers Netflix has to offer. And you’ve made your way through all the Cinema Novo films you could find online. So if you’re hankering for some other type of Latin American cinema, coming from a country that perhaps doesn’t quite has as storied a film industry, may we recommend you check out what Peru’s budding filmmakers have been up to?
Whether tackling spirituality in the Andes, haunted LGBTQ romances by the sea, or grappling with the socioeconomic issues afflicting the country in thrillers and documentaries alike, the following 11 films give a varied look at this South American country. The best part? They’re all available to stream online, so check the full list below and program your very own Peruvian Film Festival from the comfort of your own couch.
Icaros: A Vision
Her medical options exhausted, an American woman travels to the Amazon in search of a miracle. At a healing center, she finds hope in the form of the psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca. With her perception forever altered, she bonds with a young indigenous shaman who is treating a group of psychonauts seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. Thanks to the shaman who is losing his eyesight, she learns to confront her susto (the disease of fear.) Set in an actual Ayahuasca retreat in Peru, the movie features real shamans and indigenous non-actors from the Shipibo community. Many aspects of the film are based on co-director Leonor Caraballo’s true experiences who battled breast cancer as the shoot began. Although she dedicated herself to the project until the very end, sadly she died before she could see the film finished.
Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance 2010, Contracorriente dealt sensitively and elegantly with the dilemma faced by those who find themselves in love with two people at the same time. When those loved ones are of different sexes, the emotions become even more conflicted. And when one of them is pregnant with child – your child – a whole host of other factors come into play. It is Miguel, a young fisherman on the northern coast of Peru, who finds himself torn between the duty and affection he feels for his wife, Mariela, who is carrying his baby, and the sheer desire provoked by the enigmatic figure of Santiago, his male lover. The film resisted the urge to descend into telenovela-style histrionics and instead crafted a tender and honest story of how decent people arrive in such situations. Few films have crafted such an empathetic portrayal of adultery.
Named after its protagonist, Madeinusa is a story about three Holy days in the life of a small Peruvian town of Manayaycuna—literally “the town no one can enter” in Quechua). The young Madeinusa (played by Magaly Solier) has been set to play the festival’s Mater Dolorosa during their Semana Santa festivities, a time when no sin is allowed in the town. But when she meets a young stranger from Lima, she’ll begin rethinking her world and the traditional strictures that have ruled her life.
Buscando a Gastón
Chef Gastón Acurio is synonymous with Peruvian cuisine. He preside over a long (long long!) list of Peruvian restaurants in his home country and in many others around the world, and has been instrumental in putting his national dishes at the center of his own famed culinary style. Julia Patricia Perez’s documentary on the Lima-born chef takes viewers behind the counter to see where he gets his inspiration from, following his travels around the world and seeing his culinary prowess up close and personal.
When Two Worlds Collide
In this tense and immersive tour de force, audiences are taken directly into the line of fire between powerful, opposing Peruvian leaders who will stop at nothing to keep their respective goals intact. On the one side is President Alan Garcia, who, eager to enter the world stage, begins aggressively extracting oil, minerals and gas from untouched Indigenous Amazonian land. He is quickly met with fierce opposition from Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, whose impassioned speeches against Garcia’s destructive actions prove a powerful rallying cry to throngs of his supporters. When Garcia continues to ignore their pleas, a tense war of words erupts into deadly violence.
Hija de la laguna
Nélida lives in the Andes and communes with water spirits. Her connection to her natural environment is what tethers her to this land she grew up in. But now, in the midst of the gold rush in Perú, she finds herself needing to take on mining companies who are too keen on accessing the precious resources under Nélida’s lake. Ernesto Cabellos’ urgent documentary chronicles this young woman’s fight (after going to law school in the city and promising her family she’d stand up for them) as well as the environmental effects that mining has had on the Peruvian landscape, offering stark reminders of how industry can ravage natural ecosystems that once sustained us.
Three old men reunite at a friend’s wake and decide to take off with his ashes. Hijinks ensue, of course, as they reminisce about their long-running friendships, head to a soccer game being played in their home town, and try to honor their deceased friend’s wishes of having his ashes strewn in the sea near their town Callao.
This U.S./Peruvian/Spanish co-production follows Oliver (Stephen Dorff) as he muses whether a lucrative deal purchasing the debts of Peruvian landowners will positively impact the lives of people in that country, including a nurse (played by Elsa Olivero), a farmer (Amiel Cayo), and his son (Marco Antonio Ramirez). Shot with washed out colors that make the clinical and bureaucratic drama being played out pop out, Barney Elliot’s film (originally titled Oliver’s Deal) is a probing thriller about the effects current transnational deals have on local economies and everyday people.
“What are you looking for?” “The reason why we’re here.” Mixing live footage, animation, and the kind of New Agey rhetoric you’d find in a “white guy goes on a spiritual quest in the Andes” documentary, Humano follows Argentine filmmaker Alan Stivelman as he seeks answers to life’s biggest questions. So, if you like your breathtaking shots of the Andes mixed in with some questionable spiritual awakening narrative strands featuring Peruvian indigenous people teaching Alan about the world as we know it, this journey to the high mountains may just be what you’re looking for.
Someone is out to get Constantino Zegarra. At least that’s what Constantino Zegarra believes — and he has his reasons. His car window is smashed, he receives a career-killing demotion, and then, while driving at night, he’s hit in the neck by what appears to have been a stray bullet. Or was it? Constantino is a judge with no sympathy for sob stories and an impressive conviction rate. He could have any number of enemies.
Clemente, an extremely quiet pawnbroker, is Sofia’s hope to avoid solitude. Being his neighbor and a single woman, she spends her days as an October’s Lord of the Miracle’s worshipper. One day, Clemente is left with a newborn baby who seems to be the outcome of a sudden relationship with a disappeared prostitute. While Clemente looks for the baby’s mother, Sofia enjoys taking care of this baby in Clemente’s house and thus discovering her life as a mother. Through the arrival of both of them to his life, Clemente has an opportunity to ponder about the emotional attachments he has never had.