Sunday, May 20, 2007


Kukuli; Drama, Peru, 1961; D: Luis Figueroa, Eulogio Nishiyama, César Villanueva, S: Victor Chambi, Judith Figueroa, Emilio Galli, Martina Mamani

In the rousing landscapes of South America live the people of Inca. Kukuli, a young woman, is a member of these people, playing with her lama while traveling across the mountains. During one of her voyages she meets Alaka and falls in love with him. The young couple arranges for a witch to predict their future, but she gets scared and chases them away sensing they are going to die soon. In a nearby town a carnival is underway and Alaka is tolling the bells in a church. Suddenly a bizarre creature shows up dressed in a black costume and pushes Alaka from the tower and kidnaps Kukuli. The villagers and a priest kill the creature, but when they take their mask off they discover it has a head of a bear. But too late, since Kukuli is already dead.

As the first movie filmed in the traditional language of Inca, "Kukuli" is considered a milestone in contributing to the authentic old cultures of South America and Peru's cinematography, although it's only a good film. Except for the fact that it's at parts boring, monotone and has a slow rhythm, and that the three directors Figueroa- Nishiyama- Villanueva don't extract something extraordinary out of it, the most bizarre and unusual element of the film is that it's presented in form of a documentary (for instance, the narrator explains how Incas are making necklaces or conducting rituals), although in the exposition it is stated quite the opposite. The main heroine Kukuli is described rather raw, sparse, like the whole mythical tone of the minimalistic story, and her romance with Alaka is unforgivably clumsy (they are never shown touching or even talking to each other) but exactly that hermetic and unusual departure from the western culture give it slight charm. "Kukuli" is a rare kind of black and white film, a naive fairytale with ethnic Inca iconography that can't fit into any kind of model - the supporting characters have much more space than the main characters - but the fact that the film turns into a fantasy in the last 10 minutes, where a bizarre human-like creature dressed in a black costume kidnapped Kukuli and when the people killed it and took it's mask discovered it had a bears head, gave the film an interesting touch of esoteric folk tale.