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This film documents the lives of Quechua people who live around Ausangate, a sacred peak in southeastern Peru. It is based on anthropological research conducted over twenty years and reveals how the weavers make textiles encoded with symbolic images that reinforce ancestral beliefs during rituals and in everyday life. Four Quechua people's stories are told against a backdrop of high Andean lakes and mountains showing a harsh existence possible only through a strong symbiotic relationship to their alpacas and llamas. From these animals they gain food, pelts, dried dung for fuel, transport for goods, and yarn for clothing. They maintain a deep integrity through their interconnectedness with the natural forces and their ritual relationships to Ausangate, and they still organize their labor and social relationships through the Inca social practices of ayni and ayllu.
The film includes women revitalizing weaving techniques within mother's clubs, first haircutting rites of passage, and the annual pilgrimage of Qoyllur Rit'I, which occurs annually near Ausangate- drawing participants from distinct communities throughout Peru and Bolivia. Qoyllur Rit'I is the only Andean pilgrimage/festival where drinking is not allowed and dancers known as ukus stand all night on the 15,000-foot-high glacier so they may have the privilege of taking a chunk of ice from the mountain that is later melted and drunk by their community as sacred water. Visually cinematic, the film carries a deep message of survival and cultural continuity in an environment with elevations over 14,000 feet.
Faced with the pressures of modernization, Quechuas are confronted with choices about whether to move to the cities in search of jobs and educations — thus separating themselves from nature and from Ausangate- or to continue in a lifestyle that has sustained them for centuries. Theirs is a story of change incorporated onto a bedrock of tradition that is dynamic and capable of adaptation. The intention is to show how they make decisions about staying or leaving and what they choose from the outside world to incorporate into their isolated world.
"Recommended." — Educational Media Reviews Online
Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase, Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, NM, 2007
Green Wave 21st Century European Environment Festival, Bulgaria, 2007
DOCSDF International Documentary Film Festival in Mexico City, 2007
Boston Latino International Film Festival, 2007
Roshd International Film Festival, Iran, 2007
DC Environmental Film Festival, 2007
The Archaeology Channel Film & Video Festival, Eugene, OR, 2008
Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, Canada, 2008
New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, 2008
screening, INCA Musuem, Cuzco, Peru, 2008
Big Bear Lake International Film Festival, California, 2008
Taos Mountain Film Festival, New Mexico, 2008
Grand Festival Award for Documentary, 17th Berkeley Video & Film Festival, California, 2008
Best Foreign Documentary, Mountain Film Festival, Mammoth, CA, 2010