Peter Kenworthy, the executive director for Mountainfilm in Telluride, is in Chile right now for the International Rural Film Festival, which is part of a larger nonprofit, Fundacion Altiplano, that aims to support and sustain the culture and economies of small Andean communities in the northernmost parts of Chile. He shares the following from his adventures:
Andean communities here are at great risk as young people flee to the cities where, unfortunately, they mostly encounter alienation, joblessness, homelessness and crime rather than the bright futures they anticipate. The film festival is one of the means Fundacion Altiplano uses to highlight the issues of the rural communities it serves and does so, in part, by taking the films to the actual villages and screening them outside — a way to both bolster esteem among locals and attract outsiders to learn about the traditions, handicrafts, art and trades of the communities.
I'm here with Lana, my four-old daughter, which is an adventure in itself. We traveled for two full days to get here (extended by 12 hours because of a missed connection in Santiago), and she has been consistently demonstrating her own indomitable spirit.
Yesterday, after a day of R&R on the beach at our hotel here in Arica, we traveled high up into the altiplano of the Andes — 4,500 meters — to a land of extreme aridity, snow-clad volcanoes, wild vicunas, llamas and a most peculiar creature called a vizcacha, one of which I felt thrilled to actually spot. They are sort of a cross between a chinchilla, a rabbit and a mini kangaroo (see photo above).
In addition to screening an evening of 2012 Mountainfilm flicks at one of the remote villages, I am a judge and am giving a class in the "Do's and Don'ts of Effective Filmmaking" for which I will draw mostly from my experience of viewing hundreds of Mountainfilm submissions, both great and inglorious. Additionally, I plan to channel festival director David Holbrooke, who spent the better part of an hour giving me a crash course before I left Telluride.
I'm excited to be here and to participate in a festival that, like Mountainfilm, is locally born and bred and that is committed to bringing attention to issues that matter. In the case of Arica Nativa, the issues are specific to its region and in some ways, consequently, all the more pressing. To help rediscover forgotten or lost traditions, revive them and, in the process, to both reinstate pride in those traditions and use them as a basis for future sustainability is a rich endeavor. In the faces and attitudes of the Arica Nativa team, and the larger Fundacion Altiplano staff, you can see the telltale signs of good work in progress. It's a pleasure to behold.