A poetic Bolivian reality: Utama

The main benefit of film festivals is that countries that are hard to find and produce few films can present film samples to moviegoers in the comfort of a cinema. This year, 134 feature films from 43 countries will be shown at the 41st Istanbul Film Festival. We can experience the colors, images and stories of different regions from the Philippines to Norway, from Ukraine to Egypt. Most of these films cannot be seen in cinemas outside of the festival.

The Bolivian film “Utama” was one of those films that deserved to be seen on the big screen, but it was difficult to find this opportunity outside of the festival. Utama is the debut film by photographer and cinematographer Alejandro Loayza Grisi.

With “Utama” the director draws a realistic and aesthetically pleasing picture of rural life in Bolivia. It connects us to the lives of Virginio and Sisa, an elderly Quechuan couple from the mountains of Bolivia. The old couple get up early in the morning and tend their llamas, in the evening they meet in their small huts. The director painted such an aesthetic atmosphere in his first film that this simplicity and routine leaves the viewer with a poetic taste.

Sounds of nature gradually disappearing from our cinema is one of the strongest aspects of “Utama”. Background music is used very little and appropriately in the film. Amateur actors went on with their everyday lives and almost forgot the camera. With its images of nature, the film maintains its existence as a river flowing in its own river. This image can be used to describe the film, but the main problem of the film is thirst, which is the fact that a mighty river does not flow near the villagers’ living quarters.


With the expected rain still not coming after a long drought, both the llamas and the villagers must decide what to do as they are deprived of the water to survive. Should they remain in the village and continue to wait traditionally, or, like many, should they take to the streets and integrate into a new dynamic amidst the uncertainty of city life?

When the tension caused by thirst increases its influence and shakes the couple’s everyday life, Clever, Virginio and Sisa’s grandchild, arrives and invites them to his home in the city. In addition to the ecological problem caused by the drought in the background of the film, there is also a rather small generational conflict. Clever, who doesn’t know his grandparents’ native language, speaks Spanish with them and doesn’t put the phone down, is the representative of life in the changing city. Even if grandfather Virginio wants to continue his life in the village, which has changed from hope to stubbornness with his exhausted lungs, neither nature nor his illness will bring him back to life in this arid geography. But Virginio is such a cultured Indian that he chooses to leave himself in the void after being weakened like vultures. For him, changing his world is a stronger alternative than exposing himself to the transformative influence of the city. But his grandson Clever will not stop fighting for his grandfather.


“Utama” reminds me of the movie “Even the Rain”. Written by Paul Laverty, the screenwriter of the Ken Loach films, and directed by Laverty’s wife, the unforgettable actor of the film “Country and Freedom”, Icíar Bollaín, “Even In The Rain” showed the importance of thirst in Bolivia during of the film was was filmed within the film. . Because the then government in Bolivia even sold rainwater to a foreign company. Therefore, the villagers could not even collect rainwater.

“Utama” is an awe-inspiring production that shows the transformation a human being undergoes when tested with water, the most basic source of life, the clash of generations and the sadness experienced when death comes at the door knocks and the time has come for two old lovers to separate, with a very aesthetic and serene cinematography. The viewer will not soon forget it.

The further Bolivia is from us, the closer we are, with the similarities to the Native Americans described in Alejandro Loayza Gray’s first film “Utama”, with the drought that will test us at any moment, and the generation gap we are experiencing moment by moment. I hope that it will not only remain in the screenings within the framework of the festival, but will also find a wider audience.

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