Bolivians have made few films. Still, those few have had a disproportionate impact both within Bolivia and internationally. Providing ample information on those films and their directors, this book embraces articles, essays, interviews, a bio-filmography of Bolivians connected with the production of films, a list of feature films made in Bolivia, and one very lively round-table discussion. The authors of the essays as well as the participants in the round table tend to demand much from their cinema. Films, many feel, should show Bolivian reality, discuss national problems, explore the causes of those problems, and, if possible, indicate some solutions to the problems.
The book opens appropriately with a history of sixty-six years of sporadic Bolivian filmmaking that quickly concentrates on the Ukamau Group, noting, “The emergence of Jorge Sanjinés in the Bolivian cinema is a truly decisive turning point” (pp. 37-38). Sanjinés receives considerable praise because he tried to meet all the demands most of these authors put on cinema. He is best known in the United States for his masterpiece Blood of the Condor (Yawar Mallcu, 1969). Political events forced Sanjinés into exile in 1971, and the new director who replaced him, his former cameraman, Antonio Eguino, is now earning a solid international reputation for himself with his second feature-length film, Chuquiago (1977), shown in the United States under the same title.
Although differing in their approach to film, both Sanjinés and Eguino belong to the Ukamau Group responsible for making the important films of contemporary Bolivia; and both are concerned with the problems and realities of their nation. Thus, both make films that are significant sociological and historical statements. Historians will do well to consult their filmic work as valuable documents for a better understanding of Andean America in particular, but, on many levels, of Latin America in general.
Much of this book, however, revolves around those differences that distinguish Sanjinés and Eguino. Sanjinés, offering a radical, revolutionary, and dogmatic cinema, is required to wander in exile. Eguino, seeking to remain in Bolivia and to work within its political reality, offers a cinema tolerated by the authorities. “Eguino takes risks and must opt for a cinema possible under the circumstances” (p. 53). Thus, he must display a subtlety and agility that are strangers to the art of Sanjinés. Which one is more correct? Which one offers the better cinema? These are some of the questions that obviously have agitated the Bolivian intellectuals, and this book submerges us in the debates over philosophy, methodology, and compromise. The frustrating, as well as fascinating, discussions illuminate the realities of intellectual inquiry in Latin America. In that way, this book goes beyond providing information on the Bolivian cinema to reveal to us the concerns over themes and methodologies that preoccupy contemporary intellectuals.