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Madeinusa: Fascinating Review of the Coming-of-Age Peruvian Movie

Madeinusa is a 2005 Peruvian-Spanish movie directed by the then-29-year-old Claudia Llosa. It tells the story of a young coming-of-age girl named Madeinusa. The story is set in a fictional small village called Manayaycuna (“the town no one can enter” in Quechua) in the Andes mountains.

The movie portrays a mix of beauty, brutality, innocence, and hope. There is poverty. There is tradition. And there is a celebration—of oft-confusing, complex, and incomprehensible traditions.

The story covers three days into the lives of villagers in Manayaycuna and a stranger from Lima. The stranger, Salvador (a white outsider), a geology expert, is sent by a mining company to evaluate the area.

However, he gets struck in the village, as there is no other way for him to advance. The three days are important because they are meant for the inhabitants to celebrate and honour their patron saint every year.

Madeinusa in a still from Madeinusa

The stranger’s arrival causes a lot of distress among villagers. He is treated as unwelcome in the village. But, beneath that lies the dark secrets that sustain the three days of this village. All crimes are legal during the Tiempo Santo (Holy Time), symbolized by an effigy of Christ as dead.

Sin ceases to exist—for those three days. All villagers are allowed to do as they please. During this period, an older person operates a red calendar for the next three days.

Cayo, the father of Madeinusa and the mayor of the village, had been waiting to take the virginity of Madeinusa during the Holy Time. However, Madeinusa falls in love with Salvador—and loses her virginity.

The three days, although filled with celebrations, are also filled with misery, violence, and brutality—in a poverty-laden society. There is also lots of envy. Madeinusa wants to go with Salvador to Lima, where her mother left several years ago. The movie has an interesting twist, which gives it an exciting ending.

The cinematography of the movie is stunning. The beauty of the Andes and the colourful tradition of festivals are also the highlights of the film. There are lots of singing, music, and fireworks. The use of colour in the movie is particularly striking, contrasting poverty, the bleak reality of village life, and the colourful festivities.

A still from the movie

The movie deals with several themes. There is sexual violence, race, colonialism, and the feminist trope of fighting the system. The performances in the film, particularly that of the lead protagonist, Madeinusa (Magaly Solier), are outstanding. Solier captures innocence, vulnerability, and pain as she navigates through the three days.

Each actor plays it so authentically that it gives a feel of the real story. However, parts of the movie are pretty bleak, and it feels challenging to watch.

As one sits through this movie, sustaining the film doesn’t feel easy. At times, one may feel that the movie is way too slow. There are also issues with how the movie portrays its protagonists. Despite drawing on some of the issues of poverty in rural Peru, it may also reinforce several stereotypes about the people—and their practices.

At one point, the movie feels like the anthology The Purge, where one could do whatever they pleased for the next 12 hours—and people experiencing poverty suffered.

However, this movie is worth watching, as it teaches about people living in the Andes—and rural Peru. It gives us a flair for the complexities one navigates through in life in the Andes. The stunning visuals and brilliant performances that navigate through complex themes are notable.

Trailer of the movie Madeinusa

This movie is available on Mubi.

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