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Behind the scenes

Storm in the Andes

For me documentary filmmaking is always about people – in front of the camera and behind.

It’s all about people

For me documentary filmmaking is always about people – in front of the camera and behind.

Cesar

Cesar Leon de la Torre has been my assistant in Peru for many years. He finds the hidden people in the far away valleys, solves the problem of a broken car in the Andean night and knows the difference between truth and lies in the Peruvian labyrinth. But best of all is that he is Cesar, during the inevitable hardships and in the magical moments.

Ivan Blanco

Ivan Blanco, the cameraman. He could be dead asleep from fever but when he was needed he got up and made the most honest and intimate camerawork.

He deeply identified with the people in front of the camera, even chewing the bitter coca leafs and trying to read their ancient secrets.

Göran Gester, the other cameraman and my co editor. A friend since forever and professional in every inch both on the field and in the editing room. He is capable of loyalty to my vision and of convincing me when I am wrong.

He even liked to walk up and down thousands of meters into an Andean valley to film a scene we never used.

Göran Gester
Mario Adamson and Jon Rekdal

It’s all about people. Mario Adamson created the soundscape that brings us close to the characters and into the Peruvian world.

Jon Rekdal brought his musical genius and took us the last but enormously important stretch of the road.

The sage intellectual

The grey eminence in the shadows; Juan Mendoza. He is the sage intellectual who was a peasant leader and he took me back to the villages were it all began for me in 1974.

On our road are also the dead. They walk alongside us, visible for those who knew and loved them. One of them is Stefan Kaspar, the creator of Grupo Chaski and my Peruvian co production company Casablanca Films.
Stefan was a passionate fighter for a cinema of the people, for the people. Fortunately his wife Maria Elena Benites carries on his struggle with her team in Lima and the provinces of Peru. http://www.grupochaski.org

Stones on the road

Making this documentary did not only bring sorrow. It was also an adventure full of tenderness, humour and strange surprises.
During the long and sometimes trying hours on the Andean roads it was a relief to be trusted to take the steering wheel from Cesar for a while. But in the winter season the roads in the Andes sometimes disappear in a sudden avalanche, or the mountain comes down on the road you are travelling.

This night I was driving and stones were all over the road. For a long time the driving went well but all of a sudden I hit a big stone.

We were suddenly stuck in the middle of nowhere with all the oil of the engine on the road.

Into the night

Cesar disappeared into the night. Hours later he came back with a truck that helped us into the small Andean town of Chaluanca. The car was left at a seemingly abandoned house on the outskirts of town. The truckdriver said this was the only mechanic available. We found a hotel and next day went back to be told that the oil pan needed welding. Furthermore, there was no electricity in the workshop and very few tools available.

The mechanic lived with his family and his father in a mud house that served as workshop as well as a home. He promised that he could fix the car without having to weld it.

While the mechanic worked we talked to his father and discovered that he knew Samuel and his family.

And he had been present during the land occupations nearly 40 years ago! We showed him the photographs from 1974. He was overwhelmed and wanted to read some poems he had written during those days. Of course we could not resist filming it. And of course the car was fixed.

Finally, the premiere

Gringo!

In Storm in the Andes there is a short sequence where Flor shows the peasants the pictures I took of them 40 years ago. In one of the pictures I stand together with them. Flor asks how I look today. ‘Like us’, they answer. With a grin someone adds: ‘Gringo!’ And everyone laughs.

Maybe our common ageing and the fact that I have come back with the photographs after such a long time give us enough common ground despite all the differences between our lives. I find great comfort in this.

I also find great comfort in the fact that Josefin dared to make the journey back to the country that was thrown into war practically because of decisions made in her family.

And that she fell in love with this troubled land, like I did 40 years ago.

In August 2014 we could finally travel back to Tancayllo where the tremendous journey began in 1974. We had been granted permission from the Film Festival in Lima to present Storm in the Andes here before the official world premiere. And we had taken the decision that Josefin should stay in Sweden. Partially for security reasons, but also because of fear that the sensational aspect of her background would shift the focus from the real protagonists; the Andean peasants.
It is impossible to convey the atmosphere when night fell in Tancayllo and people slowly began to fill the room where Tempestad en los Andes (the Spanish title) was going to be shown. I knew many of the people in the room and also who had sided with Sendero Luminoso and who had been on the other side. There were even those responsible for the deaths of fellow villagers. Some had spent time in jail and returned to the village. And they were all known to each other.

The audience

I never have before experienced such a total concentration when showing a film I have worked with. Every single word or gesture was reacted on with sighs and crying but also with laughter and murmurs of approval or disapproval. When the film was finished people spoke about their suffering, in their own Quechua and in Spanish. No accusations were made and they agreed that they ought to honour their common, peaceful struggle against the landlords before the war.

In the final report from the truth and reconciliation commission much emphasis was put on the importance of reconciliation. The Andean villagers whom without comparison suffered the most from the war have been left alone with this burden. But what happened that night in Tancayllo was a very dignified response to that challenge.
If there is reason for pessimism about politics in Peru there is hope in the daily efforts of many ordinary men and women. As when they come together for the ‘faenas’, the traditional gatherings to do communal work on the land.
When Tempestad en los Andes later was presented in the capital Lima the press attention was huge. And we were surprised by the unanimous approval of the film in the many media reports, as if the impact had been strong enough to overcome the black and white, simplistic propaganda born from the fear and hate that has dominated Peru since the war.
The audiences at the festival and later at cinemas, universities and other institutions reacted as if they had been attending an important and long overdue ceremony. It was a recognition of a common experience and the need for change of the conditions that created the catastrophe and still in many ways prevail upon the Peruvian society.