The Bolivian photographer and cinematographer Alejandro Loayza Grisi now makes his debut as a filmmaker with Utama, a drama set in the remote Bolivian highlands and starring non-professional Indigenous actors. The film premiered during this year's Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic).
"The good thing about filmmaking is that it teaches you so much, making a film is like doing a thesis," says Loayza Grisi. "Every time you make a new one, you know a little more about the art of filmmaking — that's what I like to think and hopefully someday I can write a book like Tarkovsky's Sculpting in Time in which I could share what I learn from each film."
Utama centers on an elderly Quechua couple whose traditional way of life is threatened when a drought descends upon their home. Together, they must decide whether to stay and face an uncertain future or move to the city and leave behind everything they know. The film is both a cautionary tale of survival and a love story.
"Utama is, for me, a tribute to love. I believe that many of the films that have touched me the most deeply are those that explore and pay homage to this feeling that is so important to us and makes us suffer so much," says the filmmaker. "Utama speaks not only of a love between two people, but also the love of the land, your home, culture and heritage. It was important to show that in a remote place in the world, those feelings are the same, that the most important thing is our humanity. It fills me with pride to know that a story about such a specific culture can reach such diverse audiences, and that a little more is known about Bolivia, a country so forgotten in the world."
Below, Loayza Grisi shares five films that have inspired him in their exploration of love from a unique perspective. "To love is to suffer, but we need it the same as we need water," he says.
Directed by: Michel Gondry | Written by: Charlie Kaufman
I remember crying for a long time once the movie was over. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites. The premise is extremely simple yet impossible to do: To forget so as not to suffer. We all, at some point in our lives, have wished for this. And, through this desire, the movie takes you deep inside the characters, into the deep love they feel for each other, and the pain that their love brings. They are perfect for each other, but everyday life overcomes them and forces them to be far away. The impossibility of love, the unattainable perfection and their predestined suffering. However, the film has the ability to make you fall in love with what makes us suffer so much, it makes you feel in love with love.
Written and Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Another movie that left me in tears long after the credits rolled is Marriage Story. Even today it moves me when I think about Nicole's (Scarlett Johansson) painful phrase with which the movie can be summed up, 'I'll never stop loving him, even though it doesn't make sense anymore.' The feeling is mutual in the couple, and that is what hurts the most. That horrible feeling of knowing that the love of your life is not the person of your life, that everyday life overcomes both of you, that the ambitions and personal desires of each of you and the moment in your life is not the perfect one for the relationship to survive. Time is fickle and cruel.
Nevertheless, the film leaves you with the feeling of having lived that intense love that causes you to behave at your worst, that makes you suffer until it seems that you cannot suffer any more, but that, at the end of the day, you would surely choose to live that love 1000 times again. You are forever grateful to that person, and you even sense that your souls' paths will cross again.
Directed by: Wim Wenders | Written by: L. M. Kit Carson and Sam Shepard
The movie is seemingly about many things. And, with each new situation, it deceives you as to what it is about. Ultimately, I understand it as a film about love. A love that is harmful and damaging, but at the same time enormous and pure. It is one of the most bleak and, at the same time, most beautiful endings in the history of cinema. Personal sacrifice for someone else's happiness, a mission to make peace with yourself, but above all to need that the person you love to be happy. Letting go is to me the purest form of love. You do it with much pain and knowing that it will hurt you, but you do it so that the person you love will be happy.
Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel
Directed by: Krzysztof Kieślowski | Written by: Krzysztof Kieślowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
What is love if not a projection of happiness we have with another person? This is what moved Tomek and Magda in chapter six of the beautiful Dekalog and became a longer feature film, a film that leaves you with more questions than answers.
Kieślowski is one of those filmmakers who can contain in a single scene many layers of emotions, from the simplest to the deepest, some beautiful and pure and others extremely coarse. It is an exploration of seemingly twisted loves, but ones that can reach an enviable intensity. Kieślowski and Piesiewicz's virtue in their screenplays is to make 'simple' characters that contain as much as any other person a whole universe of desires, fears, disappointments, frustrations and longings. You don't need to see everything, because you understand them with each of their small reactions to mundane situations.
Written and Directed by: John Cassavetes
In Faces, you are surprised by the acting, the closeness with the characters. They feel familiar and very real. Another thing that caught my attention is the mise en scène. The form may seem experimental, but it is clear that everything is at the service of the internal emotions of the characters. It takes advantage of as much time as possible to be with the characters so that we can understand their feelings and look at them from the inside. It explores love for what it is, this enormous difficulty of being completely content, the feeling that there can always be something more. The desolation and loneliness that we will seemingly always end up with. To have a wonderful person by your side, but that the natural wear and tear makes you look for new adventures, and that on the way you get lost in the labyrinth of trying to understand love and life. To be destined to repeat mistakes and live with regret.