Quick Thoughts: Blood Of The Condor (Yawar Mallku, 1969)
This is a film made by Jorge Sanjinés and is the Bolivian film of the series.
There are very few films that actually manage to tangibly impact the world; in spite of hidden meanings, social commentary and subtext, most movie are just movies. Blood Of The Condor is then less a movie, more a historical document, one that served as a voice for the indigenous Bolivian community of the late 60s. Its narrative is centred on a small community in rural Bolivia that are receiving aid from “Progress Corps”. The people receiving this aid, however, do not believe that they are being given help of any kind, instead, they believe their women are being sterilised against their will – and so they rebel. This results in the attackers being shot – the brother of the protagonist being one of these victims, leaving him and his brother’s wife struggling to find money so that he can receive care for his wounds at a hospital.
Sanjinés, the maker of this film, based this narrative on allegations made by indigenous peoples in 1967 against the American Peace Corp; allegations that claimed the Peace Corp volunteers were sterilising their women without their knowledge and consent. It seems that the Peace Corp were in fact distributing contraception as as well as inserting IUDs into women – but, as they claimed, with their consent. There thus seems to be controversy and confusion surrounding this whole topic which has continued over the decades with claims of US-backed eugenics programs and forced sterilisations. This was fuelled and made much more complex by the ejection of the American Peace Corp in 1971 – which is considered a direct result of this film’s release. Under military dictatorships in the late 60s and 70s, the distribution of birth control in Bolivia was made illegal. This had a lasting impact in Bolivia as not only were American peace groups generally not trusted, an emphasis of an already existing disdain for imperialists and colonialists, but neither were contraceptives trusted by many.
Blood Of The Condor is an incite into this historical issue as well as a film that acts as a window into Sanjinés’ Marxist idealism. Not only does he combat Bolivian social issues from the perspective and the side of its indigenous people, but his aesthetics are imbued with realism that is supported by a very noticeable type of montage. Advocating a 1920s Soviet Cinema of montage and symphonies through his approach to editing, Sanjinés, much like Vertov, Eisenstein and Dovzhenko, then encompasses a communist aesthetic, which is emphasised by his narrative’s focus not on individual heroes, but the collective plight and struggle.
What all of Sanjinés does through this film, which seems to be predicated on an agenda, seemingly brings into question the credibility of this narrative, raising ever more debate and controversy around the issues he depicts. In such, is this an ethical film based on fact, not just speculation? And as a result, were his associations made with the opening title cards as well as his final image of armed rebellion justified?
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