December 10, 2008

Bolivian revolution on film

Art & Unrest in the AndesAs Bolivia’s political struggles intensify, the country’s indigenous filmmaking—which first made an impact in the 1960s—has been invigorated anew. It is currently producing some of the most exciting and innovative work in all of Latin America, as filmmakers fervently resist the otherwise-dominant commercial norms of the region’s conspicuously Caucasian-flavored, Spanish-language film and television programming. They have dared to explore race and identity issues with a confrontational frankness that has forced these debates to the surface and center of the national dialogue. Additionally, they’ve become a most vibrant chronicle and critique of globalization-related and U.S.-specific involvement in the Andes, from the ground up.

The Quechua and Aymara people, concentrated in the states of Potosí and La Paz, respectively, comprise Bolivia’s largest pueblos indígenas; their languages flourishes with literally millions of speakers each, sharing “official” status with Spanish. And yet, the void of mass media and educational materials produced in the mother tongues of its 60-plus percent majority is gaping. This void, however, is being ambitiously filled by a vanguard of visionary collectives from Aymara, Quechua, also Guaraní and the country’s 33 other pueblos, fomenting a new kind of revolution in Latin America—not with guns but through harnessing the newly accessible audio-visual production means of the digital age to give both voice and face to Bolivia’s long-silenced indigenous majority. Additionally, they could directly counter—or at the very least, balance—the tide of foreign-produced, “anthropological” documentaries which have attempted to present or dissect Bolivia’s pueblos indígenas, often without regard or respect for indigenous community protocols and cultural/intellectual property rights.
Comment:  For more on the subject of Latin America, see Indians Rise in Latin America and On the Indigenous Frontline. For more on the subject of filmmaking, see Native Documentary and News.

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