‘Storm In The Andes’ (2015) offers insight into neglected 21st Century conflict

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Storm In The Andes

Written & Directed by Mikael Wiström

Sweden, 2015

After her death in 1988 the Guzmán family spoke little of Aunt Augusta, and before her passing she was rarely discussed in the family home. Along with her husband Abimael she was one of the founding members of  Shining Path, the Maoist guerrilla movement who engaged in a long and protracted civil war with the Peruvian government throughout the 1980’s. Joesfin, Augusta’s inquisitive nephew is particularly fascinated with her aunts secret history and the way it weaves into the clandestine history of Peru, a distant place both geographically and emotionally for her as she was raised and educated in Sweden after her parents emigrated the violence amidst potential bloody reprisals.

Against her families blessing Josefin journeys to Peru to meet some of her relatives and the understandably resistant victims of the civil war, followed by the quiet camera of documentarian Mikael Wiström whose footage builds a fascinating portrait of slow reconciliation. A measured voiceover from Josefina explains her thoughts and emotions as she travels through the country, a physical, human expedition that Wiström aligns with historical documents, photos and archival antiquities, erecting a history which still resonates with injustice and anger. Many of the land reforms awarded to the indigenous population were obliterated by a right wing coup, paving the way for a communist response to the subsequent oppression and theft in the more rural and poorer sectors of the population. Splinter cells emerge in the factions who begin to take out their frustrations on the very people they purport to be fighting for, with both the junta and communists committing massacres in the name of avenging fifth columnists, of terminating traitors amidst charges of collaboration.

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Shortly before a key meeting with a woman whose brother was murdered by Shining Path Josefin confess that she  “feels like I’m carrying everything my family had tried to hide away”. Initial suspicions and enmity slowly dissolve to a mutual understanding, as both she and the victims of her communist campaign begin to understand they are both on aligned quests of peace and a reckoning with the past. The extremely sad stories of oppression and injustice stand in stark contrast with the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the Peruvian mountains and villages, it’s sometimes impossible to imagine that such horrors could occur in such beatific surroundings, as Josefin unearths the final fate of her still reviled aunt.

Storm In The Andes is a fascinating insight into a neglected area of 21st century history, a reminder that brutalities and inhuman behavior exist and have always poisoned both sides of the ideological curtain, with the inherited guilt of fanaticism reverberating throughout the generations.

For more information on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, please visit:
http://ff.hrw.org/london




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