Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Cultural Dyslexia and the Politics of Cross-Cultural Excursion in Claudia Llosa's Madeinusa

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Cultural Dyslexia and the Politics of Cross-Cultural Excursion in Claudia Llosa's Madeinusa

Article excerpt


Claudia Llosa's controversial Madeinusa (2006) has inspired unprecedented debate in the Peruvian media and blogosphere. Despite being the most awarded film in the history of Peruvian cinematography, it was disparaged by local left-leaning critics and intelligentsia, who accused Llosa of perpetuating racist colonial stereotypes of primitive and perverted natives. This essay examines the highly politicized debate surrounding Madeinusa and re(views) the film within a postcolonial feminist frame- work. In this reading the murderous impulse of the young indigenous protagonist is seen not as a sign of an evil and abject native but as a radical act of self-realization.


La controvertida película Madeinusa (2006) dirigida por Claudia Llosa ha provocado un debate sin precedente en los medios peruanos y la blogósfera. A pesar de ser la película más galardonada a nivel internacional en la historia de la cinematografía peruana, en Perú ha sido repudiada por los críticos e inteligencia de izquierdas quienes acusan a la directora de perpetuar estereotipos coloniales racistas sobre indígenas primitivos y perversos. Este ensayo examina la polémica desatada en torno de Madeinusa y (re)visualisa la película desde una perspectiva postcolonial y feminista, interpretando el impulso asesino de la joven protagonista no como signo del 'nativo salvaje y abyecto' sino como un acto radical de reivindicación y liberación personales.

In 1968, during the heyday of the revolution-oriented New Latin American cinema, Jorge Sanjinés embarked on his project YawarMallku (Blood of the Condor), a film which denounced the covert sterilization of indigenous women in rural Bolivia. To his surprise, he found that the Ajanara villagers had no desire to appear in this production, despite the fact that they themselves would be the main protagonists and that the film would be sympathetic to their predicament. Only after a traditional coca-leaf ceremony was held, and the local shaman inter- preted the signs as positive, did the locals agree to participate (Hart 2004: 71).

Four decades after the filming of Yawar Mallku, Claudia Llosa, a 30-year-old Peruvian filmmaker, resident of Barcelona, set out with astounding self-assured- ness on the filming of her operaprima, Madeinusa (2006). The film was shot entirely in the village of Canrey Chico, located in the Ancash region in the Peruvian Andes, using the local Quechua population as the central characters. In striking contrast to Sanjinés' experience, Llosa did not need the help of native elders and soothsayers to get access to the indigenous community, but rather found that the locals were only too happy to appear in the film. No direct payments were made; instead Llosa's crew bartered with the villagers, offering material goods they needed - from pots and pans to food and medication - in return for use of the location and performances by the inhabitants. In recognition of this collabo- ration, Llosa premiered Madeinusa in a church courtyard in Canrey Chico, where the film was received with much jubilation by locals who were delighted to see themselves on the big screen.

Madeinusa is at once the most critically acclaimed and most controversial film in the history of Peruvian cinematography. The work was celebrated in international circles, winning a series of international prizes including the prestigious FIPRESCI in 2006. At the same time, however, the film sparked an unprecedented debate in the Peruvian media and blogosphere and polarized critics between those who consider Madeinusa a unique achievement in Peruvian cinematography and defend the director's right to make a film about her racial and cultural Other, and the left-leaning critics and intelligentsia who accuse Llosa of cultural prédation and the perpetuation of racist colonial stereotypes of primitive and irrational natives. In the analysis which follows, I will first offer a summary of Madeinusa and the circumstances surrounding its production and then proceed with a review of both sides of this highly politicized debate. …

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