There are a lot of great films on YouTube. Sometimes they disappear, but that’s life. I still can’t find my favourite scarf that I lost. Consequently and until I find that scarf here’s the first entry in a series of posts I’m calling the YouTube Film Treasure Series. If I were a Soviet bureaucrat I’d call it YTFTS.
Yawar Mallku (English: Blood of the Condor) is a Bolivian feature film by Jorge Sanjinés, a Bolivian director who started making films in 1966 and has been making them ever since. He’ll be 80 years old in a few years. His latest film, Insurgentes, came out in 2012 but doesn’t even have an entry on the IMDB, and I’ve no idea how to get to copy.
Sanjinés is definitely what you’d call a “political” filmmaker. Blood of the Condor is a good example of what that means. It’s set in Bolivia and concerns a member of an indigenous Andean tribe who leaves his rural mountain home and heads for the capital La Paz to get blood for a wounded family member who needs it. The city is a scary place, and despite the tribe member’s best attempts he fails to get the blood or generally blend in with urban society. Although he tries to act western, none of the Spanish-speaking city people accept him as a worthwhile citizen. Meanwhile, the tribe itself is being wiped out by the American Peace Corps, which has set up a medical clinic that purports to be providing free medical services but is actually secretly sterilising the women of the tribe. When the tribe finds out, its members use the dead man who needed blood as a martyr and rise up against the imperialist Americans, leading to one of the most famous and effective freeze frame endings in film history—the tribe members lifting their guns in defiance. Although far less known, it’s right up there with the last frame of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.
The copy of the film on YouTube doesn’t have English subtitles, but subtitles aren’t really necessary.