Film Review: Rosa Chumbe

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Have you seen the new award-winning Peruvian film Rosa Chumbe? We did and we’d love to share with you what we thought about this internationally acclaimed movie.

Sporting the tagline “a veces solo necesitas un milagro” (“sometimes you just need a miracle”), Rosa Chumbe’s arrival to Lima seemed almost a miracle in itself. The film by Peruvian-Chinese director Jonatan Relayze has won awards abroad and has been screened in New York as well as in Europe before finally arriving at screens in Lima.

Despite such international success and praise it is not available for viewing in all cinemas in Peru, and the film is under pressure to fill seats if it is to continue being shown in its own country, as reported by their official Facebook page.

Played by Liliana Trujillo, Rosa Chumbe is a policewoman who by day works in an office of Central Lima before spending her nights at a local casino to buy rum that acts as her consolation in a humdrum life at home. After a fight, her daughter runs away with Rosa’s savings while leaving her son behind for Rosa to look after. Much of the film centers around how the two women perceive and interact with various environments in Central Lima while uncovering the secrets that haunt them.

Rosa Chumbe portrays a bleak reality of modern life in Lima, but it is never overstated. The film recognizes when to be subtle and when to be blunt in revealing the torments of Rosa and her daughter. As the two women experience the environs of Lima; the lights of modern stores filled with expensive dresses, the dull illuminations of bleak hospitals, and spiraling staircases, the film takes on alternating tones of familiarity, intimate moments, but with a bitterness that seems to be the recurring default among the ambulantes (peddlers, vendors, and performers on the street).

Throughout the film, the city of Lima seems to become a principal character. Not quite in the same sense as, for example, Taxi Driver, where it is man versus the city, but in a way that leaves one feeling that this film could not have taken place anywhere else, that Rosa Chumbe, her daughter, and the people around them with whom their subtle interactions contrast their own characters could not belong to any other place. It seems unclear whether the characters move through the city or if the city itself moves the characters, and the incredible performances by both Liliana Trujillo and Cindy Diaz play on this dynamic perfectly.

The film’s semi-surrealism is accentuated by these many dimensions, yet it is not exactly a surreal film. It shocks and surprises with moments of both grim realism and reality-bending. What makes this all so effective is that the film never needs to explain anything. It shows instead of tells. This is also why it has gained such international success: one can understand most of the film with only a basic summary of the story and without being fluent in Spanish.

Rosa Chumbe is both Peruvian at heart and relatable to those who have lived in Lima, but also innovates in how it blends moments of fantasy with reality. It is highly recommended for Peruvians and foreigners alike. For a list of cinemas where it is currently showing in Lima, see the official Facebook page.

Let us know what you think of the film here at Living in Peru!

Before you go, check out the trailer!

(Video: Rosa Chumbe Youtube)

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Mike Dreckschmidt

Mike grew up and eventually attended university in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He graduated in Integrative Leadership Studies with an emphasis in Urban and Regional Planning and has been a part of planning projects in three different countries. Mike’s passion is reading; he devours both literature and nonfiction. His favorite author is Peru’s own Julio Ramón Ribeyro.