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Film Critics: Today, December 11, winners from New YorkFCOnline, San FranciscoFCC, New MexicoFC, AtlantaFCC, PhiladelphiaFCC, TorontoFCA, BostonSFC. Nominations from St. LouisFCA and ChicagoFCA.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

La Teta Asustada (The Milk of Sorrow)


A very complex story in an intriguing film that since the very black screen first take tells you to prepare to travel into the magic of indigenous populations traditions and beliefs; and so you do with a full of contrasts images, deep silences that tell all, chilling songs, outstanding performance by lead actress and a horrendous tale of the consequences that war left in some women and mostly in their children. A tale that you will not see one image with something horrendous; but you will feel everything inside of you, in your bowels, in your heart and in your head.

I could totally feel Fausta’s fear –and pain-, almost as if it was happening to me. That’s how good is Magaly Solier performance and how good Claudia Llosas’s directing abilities are. But Llosas’ writing abilities are greater –if possible- as she created a light magical amusing story that at the same time is profoundly horrendous! As someone says, Llosa chose not to show any of the atrocities as even today no one dares to speak about them in their native country; but if you cannot see them, you can absolutely feel them.

What makes this film outstanding is that the story is peppered with urban indigenous special occasions traditions (like weddings), some unbelievable funny lines (one really shock me… but made me laugh loud!), and that makes us “live” the cultural contrasts between the poor urban indigenous population and the upper urban classes. Contrasts that start with different languages and go on up to the abuse that one class exercise into the other. Then there is a very surreal scene of a poor suburb of Lima where you see the house where Fausta lives with his uncle’s family and an improvised swimming pool that is so out of place, but so cheerfully realistic that is amazing and this is just one of the many scenes that just blew my mind.

I imagine that if you ever lived in a Latin American country with large indigenous populations you will probably not like the movie because the story touches a reality that many dare not to speak about and opt to not acknowledge that what we see here happens not only during civil wars, but also during peaceful times.

Anyway, cinematography is excellent and the film has great framing and editing; but the so important to the storytelling songs are chilling, appalling and beautiful; most interesting is to find that some songs are composed by Soler who performs all of them, except for the first one that’s performed by the non-actor that plays her mother.

The film won the Golden Bear at the 2009 Berlinale and was honored at the 2009 Guadalajara fest with Magaly Solier winning the Mayahuel Award for Best Actress and Claudia Llosa for Best Film.

So, what’s the story all about? The film tells the story of one young woman, Fausta, that while she was still inside her mother’s womb, soldiers raped her mother (as told in the chilling first song and later in one of the songs that Soler sings in Quechua). After Fausta was born, her mother’s pain/shame/sorrow was transferred to her daughter when she was breastfeeding her. That’s how Fausta got an illness that is not in any medical book, that’s how Fausta got La Teta Asustada (literal translation is “the frightened breast”) and that’s why Fausta lives in constant fear, fear of men. She’s so sick that to protect herself has a potato in her vagina, as men do not like revolting things and revolting things are the only thing that keep men away (as told in another song in Quechua).

Okay I told you a lot about the amazing story but I had to. I know is a horrendous and shocking story, but the movie is a lot more than what I told you above and you really have to watch this amazing story told in the most amazing possible way. By the way, the end is a very happy finale and there is much stuff I didn’t told you which all refers to her mother burial and that is what really happens along the entire movie.

I love Llosa’s debut film Madeinusa and I love La Teta Asustada that while both films tell indigenous population magical stories, both are very different. Her second film absolutely tells about a more mature director that is developing a very interesting particular directing style that masterfully mixes visual and dialogue narrative to create magical films well beyond the amazing magical stories she tells. Definitively I am looking forward to her next project that I hope comes fast, very fast. Big Chapeau to Claudia Llosa that definitively is one of the most interesting filmmakers that the region has.

I strongly recommend this movie to those that love great Latin American cinema, like to watch unbelievable good women stories and to those that appreciate serious cinema with slow pace, glorious silences, great actors expressions and a very magical story that will shock you, make you laugh, smile, feel pain, be revolted and be hopeful about the future.

Needless is to say that this film grabbed my attention since the very black and long first take and that I was absolutely mesmerized during the entire film; but my hypnotic state was constantly disturbed by shock, laughs, smiles, disgust and the amazing facial expressions of very exotic looking Magaly Solier.

Big Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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