It’s only recently that Peru has been given a spot on my Ultimate Bucket List. I had read way too many blogs on hiking the Inca Trail to reach the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu for it to not be on there. Peru is also home to the Peruvian Andes, popular with extreme and dedicated Mountaineers. And I’m sure so much more, I wouldn’t really know, I’ve never been to South America.
Nevertheless, I do know of some films that might peak the interest of people like myself. FIlms that help portray an idea of Peru, a brief history and a peak into the ancient worlds and culture. Let’s go to Peru!
Touching the Void (2003)
I first watched Touching the Void when I was 17 and studying for my film exam. Part of the exam was on Documentaries, and Touching the Void is a particular type of documentary. It uses a mix of talking heads from the mountaineers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, whilst recreating the ordeal with actors. The film recounts two British mountaineers who attempted to climb the 6,344m Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. When the two get separated on a cliff face, thinking the other might be dead, they have to fight for their survival to get back to camp.
Why oh why would anyone be a mountaineer. It looks like immense work and absolutely terrifying, but I have no doubt reaching the summit would be a feeling like no other. The Peruvian andes are amongst the most popular climbs in the world and the film is so well made, focusing on the overwhelming power and beauty of nature that we mere mortals would want to climb it.
I’ve previously talked about one of Werner Herzog’s South American epics earlier this year for my April Blind Spot series, Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972). Whereas that film is set along the Amazon river, Fitzcarraldo is set entirely in Peru. Klaus Kinski is back again as the title character, and the narrative follows an Irishman who would become a rubber baron by the name of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, known in South American as Fitzcarraldo. The most exciting part of the film is when said rubber baron attempts to transport a ship over a ridiculously steep hill in order to reach the rubber-rich environment of the Amazon basin.
The real life rubber baron of Peru was called Carlos Fitzcarrald (which makes more sense to the film’s title). His family was Irish-American but he was in fact born in Peru. I don’t know why they changed it, it’s a weird thing to do. Anyway… This is a guy with a big dream and someone who has made lots of mistakes in the past. Ultimately, he’s stealing the land’s resources which isn’t a great thing to capture on screen, but like Aguirre, Wrath of God, the landscapes are absolutely EPIC.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Did anyone think The Motorcycle Diaries wouldn’t be on my list? Of course you didn’t, this was a done deal. The Motorcycle Diaries is actually on my 2016 blind spot series for November so I haven’t actually watched this film. But I am incredibly excited to do so. I love Gael Garcia Bernal as an actor and the revolutionary story across beautiful countries is one that I know will appeal to me.
The film is a retelling of Che Guevara’s own book The Motorcycle Diaries. This was a time before he became Che as a 23-year-old travelling across South America. The film is primarily a coming-of-age, travelogue film rather than a revolutionary film, and the locations the men visit are exactly what Peru-lovers want to see in a film. Whilst in Peru, they went to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lima and The San Pablo Leper Colony. That’s not to mention all of the locations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. It sounds like The Motorcycle Diaries might be the perfect film for anyone travelling to South America, and not just Peru.
Other films: The Dancer Upstairs (2002) and Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) are both set in Peru, but use other countries as their film location.
Have you ever been to Peru? Do you have any good film recommendations?