Journey through defining (and at times dark) historical moments, meet inspiring gastronomic and social rights heroes and delve into unresolved mysteries with these documentaries about Peru.
Why spend time watching documentaries about Peru when you could simply plan a trip for the coming year? For one, to travel to a new destination without any knowledge of the land’s historical or cultural background is to live only half of the experience. Sure, you can enjoy delicious food, visit all the sites on must-see lists and admire striking architecture—but can you truly appreciate or begin to understand the great strides taken by a country without any context?
Prepare for your next journey now with these insightful documentaries about Peru and the defining moments that have made it the fascinating travel destination it is today.
The Revolution and the Land (2019)
In late 2019, this documentary broke national records to become Peru’s most-watched documentary ever. At it’s core is the story of the military dictatorship and nationalist regime of Velasco, which brought forward an agrarian reform that denounced the hacienda system responsible for keeping power and money within just 40 national families.
Using footage from the 1960s and early 1970s as well as contemporary interviews, this film points out a decisive moment in Peru’s modern history that had previously been unheard of by younger generations.
When Two Worlds Collide (2016)
For years we’ve heard of the exploitation and damages caused to the Amazon by international corporations. Rarely do we hear the voices of those who inhabit the rainforest. This documentary focuses on the tireless efforts of an indigenous environmentalist, Alberto Pizango, to protect the Peruvian Amazon from industrial incursions allowed by Peru’s then president, Alan Garcia.
Footage shot as early as 2007 shows how pleas evolved to protests and eventually violence—and yet many of the issues are still found today.
Finding Gastón (2014)
Chef turned national hero, Gastón Acurio may not be as suave and methodical with his cooking as Virgilio Martinez—or is he? This documentary may provide a different perspective of the man responsible for bringing Peruvian cuisine to the world, as he discusses the importance cooking holds for him personally, and the potential it has to make an impact on the world.
Daughter of the Lake (2015)
Titled Hija de la Laguna in Spanish, this documentary brings forth fantastical elements thanks to its protagonist, Nelida. A native of Cajamarca, her spiritual bond with water brings Nelida’s emotions to a high when a gold mine not only devastates land but extracts her Andean town’s water supply.
Some viewers may recognize one of Nelida’s neighbors, Maxima Acuña, who made headlines when she refused to abandon her land despite the threats made by the mining company.
Available to rent or buy on Vimeo, this documentary follows a young man’s journey to discover the spiritual powers and ancestral knowledge of ayahuasca. The protagonist (Mokan Rono) is guided by a shaman and his mother (a master healer), both of whom are local to the indigenous Shipibo community of the Peruvian Amazon.
Filmed along the shorelines of the Ucayali River (the main headwater of the Amazon River), the natural setting—not to mention the sing-song language of the Shipibos—makes this a treat to watch.
The Ghosts of Machu Picchu (2010)
Since Hiram Bingham brought the archaeological site to the world’s attention in the early 20th century, many theories and debates have circled around Machu Picchu. This PBS documentary about the ancient Inca citadel contemplates upon some of the most asked questions: How was this masterpiece in the clouds built without the wheel? And why years later, would the Incas abandoned their sacred mountain?
Cover photo: Pixabay
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