Hola desde Cusco, Peru! My name’s Gretchen, and I’m studying Screen Arts & Cultures and Psychology at UMich! Thanks to the LSA Internship committee, I’m able to intern for Actuality Media for 5 weeks. Here in Peru, I have the opportunity to make a documentary film with students from around the world. I’ll be producing this film in Peru, then creating a trailer during my 5th week at home.
I’ve been in this wonderful valley for almost a week now, and I’ve loved every day of it. As soon as I arrived on Saturday, I met the rest of the film crew at the hostel we’ll be staying at. It’s at the top of a hill, which overlooks the Andes mountain range. Here, I was so excited to meet the Actuality Media team. We have two production supervisors who teach us the logistics, ethics, and tactics of making a documentary. Most of the crew is from America, but we have one girl from Australia, and a guy from London. Although we’re staying at the same hostel, go to lessons together, and attend documentary screenings together, we’re divided into two separate film crews. My team is actually one member short, and our director isn’t able to come until this weekend. It will be an interesting challenge to incorporate our director into the project after setting the foundation for it. As of now, me (Producer) and Delaney (Cinematographer) have spent this entire week researching “CooperarPeru”—a nonprofit based in a rural village within the greater Cusco area. Here’s the website for more information: http://cooperarperu.com/en/.
This week, Delaney and I have conducted several pre-shoot interviews with the primary workers of CooperarPeru. The focus of the documentary is on the “change-maker”, or the person who has contributed most to this act of change in the community. After researching and visiting CooperarPeru, we’ve decided to tell the story through the perspective of Eduardo—a young local who began this organization as a thesis project in college. The project has now been running for 7 years now, and his primary goal is to sustain the program for years to come. The largest issue the organization is facing is the lack of finances and educational resources. We’ve also found that the parents/teachers of this community have been deterring their kids from attending CooperarPeru, because they don’t support the program’s liberal arts mission (expansion of education in the arts, music, etc.). The parents and teachers don’t believe the program has enough focus on traditional education skills—however, Eduardo voices the need for more tutors/volunteers with specific skill sets. With this in mind, Delaney and I aim to document how Eduardo is working to strengthen the relationship between CooperarPeru and the community.
Cusco itself has been an amazing experience thus far. Not many locals speak fluent English, so I’ve been practicing my Spanish skills quite often! I’ve been able to converse about every day with the workers at the hostel, and I’m surprised that I’m able to speak more fluently that I thought I could. It’s been challenging, but the locals have been so kind and patient with me. I think my conversation skills will definitely be beneficial when it’s time to get to know the children a bit better at CooperarPeru. It’s so exciting to communicate, and I’m inspired to practice a lot more once I return to the US. However, I’ve realized that speaking/listening in an immersive environment is truly the best way to gain fluency.
In terms of cultural exploration, our film crew went on a day tour together to some nearby, archeological sites. We had an amazing, local tour guide who was truly passionate about his homeland and the preservation of the indigenous, Incan culture. In the picture shown at the top of this post, I’m standing near “El Templo del Sol” or “The Temple of the Sun”. He pointed out the profile shape of a head carved into the mountain across from the temple. Depending on how the sunlight hit the nose of the profile, the Incans could deduce if it was the day of the solstice. They could also predict the next year’s seasonal pattern based on how the sun lit up certain rocks on the El Templo del Sol.
Learning about Peruvian culture has been incredibly useful so far as Delaney and I have gotten to know our local subjects a bit better. Peruvian culture is extremely inventive and unique, and it will be important to demonstrate this in our documentation to potential volunteers and donors.
PS- The alpacas are incredibly soft.