The camera work of Bárbara Álvarez, a Uruguayan cinematographer behind several South American films (The Headless Woman by Lucrecia Martel being the most famous), delights the eyes in majestic scenery in Bolivia, at an altitude of three kilometres. On closer inspection the picturesque views in Utama, the debut by Bolivian Alejandro Loayza Grisi, hide a drought problem caused by climate change and repeatedly affecting an elderly couple with a chronic water shortage.
The couple José Calcina and Luisa Quispe, both non-professional actors, play subtly and convincingly Virginio and Sisa who are holding onto life in their small hut without electricity and running water, as the last inhabitants in the area. Their grandson arrives to convince especially his stubborn grandfather to move to the city for an examination at a hospital.
Loayza Grisi, also an experienced cinematographer, utilises the vertical visuality of highland plateaus in wides while telling a simple yet archetypal story about the conflicts between generations and genders as well as between traditions and the modern world. Virginio’s hawk-nosed face is like a map of the mountains when he identifies with the death ritual of the condor.
Alejandro Loayza Grisi (b. 1985, La Paz) is a talent of Bolivian cinema – less known in Finland – but now lives in Spain. He has been working in the film industry since 2012, shooting several short films but also producing features. His first feature film Utama has toured the world at festivals and received awards; the most prominent being the Grand Jury Prize in World Drama series at the Sundance Film Festival. Loayza Grisi views that the increasing film production in his country is at a good stage: with real industrial business still missing, filmmakers themselves must handle everything – with love. (Timo Malmi)