Magaly Solier, Jasmin Tabatabai, Olivier Gourmet
Written and Directed by
Peter Brosens and Jessica Hope Woodworth
First Run Features
Billed as a "lyrical tragedy about sacrifice and redemption in the Andes," First Run Features' Altiplano spends far too much waxing eloquent and lyrical and far too little time building a cohesive, emotionally resonant story for the film to have too much of a chance at a wider audience following its obligatory openings in New York and Los Angeles.
Having already picked up a couple of awards at the Bangkok International Film Festival and played at the festival in Ghent, Altiplano follows young Saturnina (Magaly Solier), whose fiancee has died as a result of a toxic mercury spill that has left many in her village sick and blind.
Could this be the Andean Erin Brockovich?
Saturnina does, indeed, become a tour-de-force of rebellion intent on righting the injustices that surround her. The film's winning of an award for environmental awareness in Bangkok should come as no surprise, co-writers and directors Peter Brosens and Jessica Hope Woodworth take virtually every opportunity to remind you, both in dialogue and visual imagery, of the importance of this film.
Saturnina finds herself united with a war photographer, Grace (Jasmin Tabatabai), who has hung up her camera after being forced at knifepoint to photograph her Iraqi guide's execution.
In the spirit of a film like Babel, but with fewer storylines and much more emphasis on visual cues, Altiplano seemingly wants to drive home the idea that we're all inevitably interconnected.
Seldom has that idea irritated me so much.
The film is so incredibly self-aware that it makes Erin Brockovich look like an insightful drama, what power and drama there is in the story is stylistically misrepresented with imagery that emphasizes religion and artistry over authenticity and naturalism.
Could Altiplano have worked?
Might it work for you?
It's difficult to fathom anyone finding a way to connect with a story that practically demands connection for it to have any impact whatsoever. This is not a Coen Brothers film, where one need not necessarily "feel" the experience to appreciate it. THIS story demands and intensely needs for us to feel it emotionally for us to care about the characters and the ways in which their lives unfold.
The connection simply never happens.
Beautiful to behold, but uninvolving and sadly uninspired, Altiplano is likely destined for a quick trip through arthouse theatres followed by a potentially more successful European run with audiences who tend to favor an approach to cinema that affords more artistic license.
While Altiplano ultimately disappoints, kudos must go to Francisco Gozon for his vibrant and lush cinematography, the art direction of Anne Fournier and Guillermo Iza and the entire production team that has, at the very least, created a film that is a visual feast.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic