Sundance Review: Utama

The Quechua people originated from Peru but spread out across South America into Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia and Ecuador. Traditionally, these indigenous groups have lived off the land, either through agricultural cultivation or pastoral farming on higher ground. However, a combination of economic pressures and climate change has forced many to move to cities, often into menial low-paid jobs. This is the quandary in Utama.

Virginio (José Calcina) and Sisa (Luisa Quispe) live on the Bolivian Altiplano, eking out a living from the land. He spends long days on the plains, herding llama, while she struggles to find water after the well in the village dries up. When their grandson Clever (Santos Choque) arrives hoping to persuade them to move to the city, they’re resistant. Virginio, who is covering up his illness, does not want to leave his ancestral home.  

Discussions around global warming and climate change tend to focus on the impact it will have on large industrial nations. As Utama demonstrates, the consequences are very much in the here and now for communities reliant on crops, farming and animal husbandry. Alejandro Loayza Grisi’s casting choices give the film a truly authentic feel while the rhythms of the highlands are captured by Barbara Alvarez’s sumptuous cinematography. Utama is a thoughtful and timely eco-drama.

Utama screens at Sundance Film Festival.

Previous Sundance Review: After Yang
Next Sundance Review: To The End

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