05 May 2008


Madeinusa is an interesting film from the Latin American continent that touches on native Peruvian Indians. When I say 'interesting' I mean that it chooses to portray the natives from a different vantage point: it does not show how these people are oppressed by the State but how they as well can be corrupt and fall prey to their own desire.

Madeinusa is a name of our female protagonist who grows up in Manayaycuna, a small town that is not even on the map. However, what perhaps distinguishes this film from other films of overt political nature is its choice to portray the village not as an idyllic place, but a rather underdeveloped space where the mayor manages to have his own daughter elected the Virgin in the annual Easter procession and where Christianity has made an indelible mark at its most superficial. We are led to believe that perhaps these Indians in the Andes do not really understand the true message of Christianity but practise it as a kind of superstition. In the film we see these interesting rituals and processions, such as Jesus being blinded, symbolising his temporary death, and Madeinusa herself dressed as the Virgin.

Perhaps this is why the director Claudia Llosa is under attack from various fronts, especially those who disagree with her biased representation of the Indian natives. But this criticism should not blind you to the film's merits, especially if we try not to see these people as oppressed Indian natives but as a human. They are victims of their own desire and this victimised state is clearly put on show during the carnivalesque three-day Festival where there is no sin as Jesus is dead. We see the corrupt Mayor who tries to rape her own daughter and the daughter herself, who is clearly desirous of leaving this small oppressive town and can't help but feeling excited when there's a man from Lima who happens to get in her way.

Taking this perspective, I think the dimension that the director chooses to tackle these village people is not only racial, but sexual and social. Madeinusa is not oppressed solely because she is a native Indian, but also because she is a female and because she is a daughter. Also worth pondering is that her desire to flee the village is perhaps 'made in USA', the country which supports the ideologies of freedom and individuality. The complexity of this representation is perhaps why we should consider that the film's merit actually outweight its criticism.

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