This astonishing documentary takes a contemplative look at Peru’s recent political history via members of the service and street classes who reside in the capital city of Lima. Bartender Jorge Kanashiro perhaps speaks for the discontent of many when he describes his “coup d’tat” against current president Alan Garcia: sneaking enough alcohol into the “orange juice only” politician’s drink that he collapsed at a commemorative function. Yet the Lima-born Heddy Honigmann makes sure to individualize Kanashiro’s outrage—she never exploits her subjects to prove a rigid point, but allows them a sensitive space within which to express their varied perspectives.
The film’s emotional fulcrum is a teenage shoe-shiner named Henry, who confesses to the director that he has no dreams or memories, good or bad. On the one hand, Henry lives in a deadening negative space, with no history or prospects; on the other, he occupies a more indeterminate eternal present, one predicated on day-to-day survival. Such is the life of the mind of a country that has seen its fair share of corrupt leaders come and go (and, in Garcia’s case, come again). Honigmann’s tapestry-in-motion gives a complicated, never-deafening voice to the oppressed while cherishing the importance of even the tiniest action, be it the proper preparation of the national drink (Pisco Sour) or a magic-hour cartwheel through a crosswalk.—Keith Uhlich