The Most Watched Documentary In Peru Raises Funds For Health In The Amazon

Gonzalo Benavente builds in ‘The revolution and the land’ a polyphonic story about the 1969 agrarian reform that led to the expropriation of half of the country’s crops

The Peruvian film director Gonzalo Benavente investigated for four years a controversial episode in the history of his country about which he knew how little they taught him in school and university the agrarian reform of 1969 which dismantled farms where farmers worked for free the landlords

In 2019 half a century after the event he premiered La revolucion y la tierra a documentary that in two months of commercial screening became the most viewed in Peru  with 90000 viewers and with which it now raises funds for establishments that serve the indigenous population affected by covid19 in the Amazon The pandemic cut the screenings of the film planned in cooperatives and agricultural associations the filmmaker told EL PAÍS

The feature film travels two paths One traces the presence of the peasants from the origin of Peruvian cinema with valuable and littleknown filmic material from national and foreign archives The other is a polyphonic account of the agrarian reform with direct witnesses such as peasant leaders former farm workers lawyers and former officials of the military government that launched the measure as well as researchers and opinion leaders

Both paths converge in persistent problems discrimination against Peruvians from the rural world and lack of respect for their rights On June 24 1969 the president of the military junta Juan Velasco enacted a land redistribution law that annulled the latifundios and handed over plots to cooperatives and agrarian societies of social interest

According to historians Velasco took this measure to prevent more land grabs organized by the peasants and also as an incentive to curb the communist influence of the Cuban revolution Peasant the boss will not eat more of your poverty is the most famous phrase of Velasco when he announced the agrarian reform law However Benavente says there is no film archive of that presidential message

In the eighties and nineties there was no import of videos and the filmmakers and television channels had no choice but to recycle their tapes So the final part of a state television recording of a soccer game had a piece of that Velasco speech The phrase is only on a vinyl record he says

Benavente and the coscreenwriter and art director Grecia Barbieri realized that there was no archive of images to tell what their interviewees related For this reason they drew on more than thirty twentiethcentury Peruvian films most of them in black and white that they found in all kinds of repositories

I have studied cinema in Peru and had not seen 95 of the films that we show that speaks of the little access to these films explains the director of the feature films Largo tiempo and Rocanrol 68We became aware of the richness of this material through the imaginaries that twentiethcentury cinema built about the peasants and the land like the work of Armando Robles Godoy or the look of the filmmaker Nora de Izcue so attentive to the conflicts in force to this day or the epic visions of the Cusco filmmaker Federico García and his wife Pilar Roca describes Benavente

One of the few documentary images obtained in the investigation is a speech by the union leader and farmer Zózimo Torres one of those interviewed for the film It was in a junkyard of an advertising agency that had recycled betacam tapes says the director

Welcoming the public
While the revolution and the earthwas on the billboard it was common for the screenings to end with applause from the audience We never calculated the enthusiasm and affection that the film was going to generate It touches on a subject that has been absent from the national debate for decades because outside of specialized academic circles it did not appear

The agrarian reform determines a new social composition within the citizen body Peru continues to be an exclusive society but enormous progress was made with it Benavente notes It is a film that dialogues with the grandson or granddaughter of those who experienced this process of change were able to send their children to school and perhaps the grandchildren went to university Perhaps it allows many who come from that side of history to feel a certain vindication to hear their family history aloud

The film has original music by the sound artist and drummer Santiago PilladoMateu and the edition by Chino Pinto whose contributions in audiovisual language can be part of the success with young audiences The documentary available for download or rental for 48 hours in October on the Vimeo platform will allocate 20 of the proceeds to equip health establishments in two provinces of the Amazon region of Peru where the population of the Awajún and Wampís ethnic groups was strongly affected by the pandemic between May and July

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