Eternity (Wiñaypacha) is the first feature film to be made completely in the Aymara language. Shot in a remote mountain location in the high Andes, it has only two characters, Phaxsi (Rosa Nina) and Willka (Vicente Catacora), an extremely elderly couple who eke out a difficult living raising animals (including llamas) and harvesting whatever plants they can. Their names mean “Moon” and “Sun.” As exotic as their lives may be, certain problems appear to be almost universal. They frequently complain that their adult son, Antuku, never visits them. He is enraptured by city life and says that speaking Aymara is embarrassing. Willka is convinced that he will never visit them again.
Gradually, life for the old couple becomes harder and harder as animals die and the harsher aspects of the weather become more difficult for them to adapt to. By the time Willka realizes that he must hike to the nearest village for help, he is no longer strong enough to do so.
At a post-screening luncheon, I had the opportunity to speak for a little while with 31-year-old director Óscar Catacora. He wants to convey messages that are important to him and to the Aymara people: the value of family, respect for the elderly and the Peruvian government’s neglect of indigenous people despite the fact that they make up a quarter of the nation’s population.
However, I have to admit that my questions dealt more with the making of the film: 1) how did Catacora get financing, 2) where did the crew stay and how did they get to the shooting location each day, and 3) how many members of his family took part in the making of the film (I had tried to count them as the end credits rolled.)
Catacora applied for funding to the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and was approved in 2013 to the tune of $120,000. The crew stayed in Puno, Catacora’s hometown, a city on Lake Titicaca with an elevation of 12,500 feet (3,800 meters). The mountaintop where they shot was another 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) up, and some days it was extremely cold. By the time they reached the location and set up, they usually had only 45 minutes or so to film before it was time to descend. This went on for six weeks. Before the actual shooting, Catacora took six months to instruct his two actors in the craft of acting. Rosa Nina had never even seen a movie. When she finally got to watch Eternity, she told Catacora, “In that thing I have left part of my life.” There is no word in the Aymara language for “movie” or even “fiction,” so “thing” appears to be the most appropriate translation.
Family members? Ten, including Catacora’s grandfather, who plays Willka.