The Politics Are Turning Apolitical

08/18/2010 5:00 AM |


Directed by Peter Brosens & Jessica Hope Woodworth

Does Altiplano need to exist? According to itself, absolutely! But I’m not so sure. This politics-abandoning meditation on love, loss and transcultural commonality is self-validating, a movie in which a war photographer renounces her profession only to relearn, by the end, the necessary and cathartic power of images: how they put the protest in protest-suicide, the meaning into death. “Without an image,” one character says, “there is no story.” In the movies, that’s true literally: Jasmin Tabatabai plays the shutterbug; Olivier Gourmet is her husband, an ophthalmologist relocated to a remote Andean village where mercury runoff from a gringo mine is blinding the indigenes. Ostensibly, this is some politically conscious dusty-realism, but Brosens & Woodworth approach it lyrically, exchanging the hardscrabble for something more numinous: this is ultimately not a polemic, but a spiritual about the transcontinental connection of souls.

Brosens & Woodworth’s creeping camera piles on new information, so shots slowly assume 360° awareness—a holistic view of “the scene” that reflects their holistic view of the world. Magaly Solier also stars, as Saturnina, an Andean bride-to-be who suffers tragedy and reacts by instigating more, which ultimately draws Tabatabai to Ecuador. Two storylines converge, and Altiplano grows ethnographically condescending as it equalizes two women’s disproportionate struggles: one purely emotional, the other heftily emo-political. The filmmakers suggest that the ladies, and everyone, are united by emotion, by grief, by victimhood. The politics turn apolitical, trumped by the personal, as though it’s not what’s happening in the world that’s important—it’s how it makes you feel.

Opens August 20