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Reviewed by:
  • Lucanamarca
  • Jaymie Patricia Heilman
Lucanamarca. Directed by Carlos Cárdenas and Héctor Gálvez. Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 2009. 69 minutes. DVD. Color. $398.00.

This is a powerful and effective film. The documentary explores the causes, course and complex legacies of the April 3, 1983 massacre of 69 campesinos by militants of Peru's Shining Path. This mass killing was an act of retributive violence, intended to punish residents of the rural Ayacucho town of Santiago de Lucanamarca for their forceful rejection of the Maoist political party. Although many Lucanamarca campesinos initially sympathized with—and even joined—the Shining Path, numerous community residents attempted to stave off state military repression by publicly executing local Shining Path commander Olegario Curitomay in March 1983. Just over a week after Curitomay's killing, approximately 60 Shining Path militants entered Lucanamarca and perpetrated the massacre.

The film begins nearly 20 years later, shortly before investigators from the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission arrive in the town. Lucanamarca campesinos describe the Shining Path's initial emergence in their community, the decision to kill Olegario Curitomay, and the subsequent massacre. In a series of deeply moving scenes, the documentary shows the Truth Commission's exhumation of the victims, the forensic examination of their bodies in Lima, and their final reburial in Lucanamarca. Toward the end of the [End Page 595] film, we see three Lucanamarca residents testify against Shining Path founder Abimael Guzmán and members of the party's Central Committee during their 2006 trial. Throughout the film, Lucanamarca campesinos narrate their own history; almost all of the words we hear in this film are spoken by Lucanamarca residents themselves.

The film masterfully demonstrates the painful realities of community divisions and the elusiveness of postwar reconciliation. Even though many Lucanamarca campesinos supported the Shining Path in its early period, residents have laid blame upon only a few former militants and their relatives, ostracizing them from the larger community. One of the most compelling moments in the film comes when Honorio Curitomay takes his brother Olegario's skull down from a shelf in his home and unwraps it for the camera. Honorio explains that he is unable to give his brother a proper burial because of continuing hostility inside the community. Later, we see Honorio crying, asking simply to be left in peace by his neighbors.

The documentary also shows the realities of continuing political neglect. We watch as then-president Alejandro Toledo helicopters into the community in 2004 and makes a series of bold promises. Toledo's pledges for new schools, medical posts, and roads for Lucanamarca never materialize, and we follow along as Lucanamarca campesinos try in vain to arrange a meeting with Toledo to remind him of his unfulfilled promises. Finally, although the documentary deals exclusively with the Lucanamarca case, it nonetheless offers larger lessons about memories of civil war violence, the political complexities of rural communities, and the challenges of reconciliation. Those lessons apply not only to Peru, but to countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia as well. Latin Americanist scholars and students alike will learn much from this impressive film. [End Page 596]

Jaymie Patricia Heilman
Dalhousie University
Nova Scotia, Canada


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pp. 595-596
Launched on MUSE
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