Saturday, February 6, 2010

When God is Dead...: Madeinusa

Madeinusa (2006) - Llosa
The film starts with a very Andean looking young girl (Magaly Solier) preparing rat poison in the kitchen as she sings a song about herself and being somewhere else in her childish raspy voice. It's quite possibly the my favorite opening of a movie ever. Madeinusa (a common name for that region) is a pretty 14 year old in a remote mountain village called Manataycuna. Townsfolk are preparing a festival of 'Holy Days' btwn Good Friday and Easter Sunday: it's three days without sin- incest, stealing, wife swapping... anything goes, because god is dead. The film unfolds as Salvatore, a tall handsome gringo from Lima comes into town and catches the glimpse of Madeinusa at a Virgin of the Year contest, part of the Holy Days festival. Madeinusa struggles in a household with a lustful mayor father and a violently jealous sister. Salvatore might be the ticket out of Manataycuna, a fictional backward village which means "a town no one can enter".

Director Claudia Llosa skillfully weaves unique Andes mix of ancient Maya beliefs and Catholicism into an allegorical fable. Being a niece of a famed writer Mario Vargas Llosa, she demonstrates a firm grasp in her material as writer/director in her debut feature. With its beautiful HD photography and colorful settings, Madeinusa is an intoxicating, fascinating concoction. It plays out like Wicker Man directed by Buñuel.

Coincidentally, I've been watching Light at the Edge of the World dvd, a National Geographic TV program hosted by ethnobotanist/anthropologist Wade Davis (author of controversial Serpent and the Rainbow)- if anyone's interested in cultural anthropology, the dvd is an excellent source for understanding culture and religions from the far side of the world. The section on Peru really helped me to understand Madeinusa better.

first 3 minutes

I can't wait to see La Teta Asustada/Milk of Sorrow.

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