Set against the spectacular high sierra of the Bolivian Andes, this strikingly shot first feature from photographer Alejandro Loayza Grisi is the tale of an old man—a Quechua llama farmer—staring death in the face and refusing to blink. Drought shrouds the dirt-poor terrain, the nearest village is on course to become a ghost town as one family after another abandons it for the city, and wife Sisa has to walk further and further to bring back water, but Virginio refuses to budge from the mud hut which is the only house he’s ever known or needed. (In the Quechua language, “utama” means “home”.) The return of their grandson Clever—with his modern ideas—challenges Virginio’s authority, but the filmmaker’s own sympathies seem evenly balanced.
Loayza Grisi gives us an authentic snapshot of a remote corner of the world, and a different way of thinking about mortality. Stellar work by cinematographer Barbara Alvarez (The Headless Woman) and the dignified performances from real-life couple José Calcina and Luisa Quispe (both non-professional actors) ensure Utama lingers in the mind.
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, Sundance 2022
José Calcina, Luisa Quispe, Santos Choque
In Quechua and Spanish with English subtitles
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Santiago Loayza Grisi, Federico Moreira
Photo by Michael Dunn
Alejandro Loayza Grisi
Alejandro Loayza Grisi is a Bolivian filmmaker who began his artistic career in still photography and entered the world of cinema through cinematography. As a director of photography, he has worked on the documentary series Planeta Bolivia (2016) and on the short films, Polvo (2017), Dochera (2018), and Aicha (2019). He ventures into scriptwriting and directing with his first feature film, Utama.