Plot: Gregorio is typical of many immigrants from the Andean mountains--where a combination of little work and dangerous politics is driving people down--to the city. He and his family come to Lima to look for work. They come to a place where no one speaks their language and machines both dazzle and intimidate the youngster.Gregorio's father can no longer work, and the family, now living in a shanty, depends on his work shining shoes on the street. His father argues they should return home, but the mother thinks that alternative is even worse. The police brutally evacuate them, and then Gregorio's father dies.
Gradually Gregorio learns the life of the streets, and often enjoys his life with the kids, who do dangerous things like firebreathing performances for pennies. His mother takes to prostitution.
As Gregorio becomes more independent, his mother futilely and desperately tries to keep track of him. When he starts to steal, she is furious and spurns the money. Gregorio leaves home for a spree; later the other boys involved in the robbery catch up with him and beat him.
As he recounts the incident to an offscreen interviewer (the device for Gregorio's narration throughout) he evinces sorrow but no particular remorse or conviction that anything could change, and indeed it appears that we have seen Gregorio's options.
Style: The film, starring a nonactor whose experience was similar to that of the character, appears almost to be a documentary. It uses as much as possible the real slums, streets and people of the vast population of desperate rural immigrants to Lima. It carries the authenticity of this approach, and also the relatively low production values.
Background on director/film: Grupo Chaski, a collective in Lima, made this film cooperatively. The collective was founded in 1982 by five filmmakers, and by the mid-80s had 30 staffers and 20 volunteers. It dpeends on foundations and on its own profits. Its president, Fernando Espinoza, told Pat Aufderheidein 1985 that the group remains, with some and constant difficulty, out of partisan sectarian politics typical of the Peruvian left, while still committing itself to social justice. Its mandate is to rase consciousness and do popular education. The group makes, distributes and exhibits films with social content, with the core of the work being educational. Its work is centered in and aroun Lima.
Gregorio was an early project, and the result of extensive interviewing among Lima's poor. The producers originally wanted Gregorio to end happily, with Gregorio spending his windfall in some socially useful way, prhaps buying something for his family. But the film's main informant--the street child who played Gregorio himself--said he would never do that.
In 1988, the group went on to make another feature, Juliana, about a little girl of the streets. This similarly-styled feature ended happily, thanks to a fantasy ending in which all the children cooperated to create an alternative to the Fagin- esque world of orphans they had been living in. The group has also made documentaries, including the sharply pointed Miss Universe in Peru (distributed by Women Make Movies in this country).
Film production context: Peru has a sporadic and idiosyncratic history of filmmaking, dominated by ambitious members of the upper class and by the traditional tensions among cultural creators in Latin America over how--politically and socially--to shape the aesthetics of nations in search of an identity. Peru, like Bolivia, is a country of several nations or at least ethnicities and languages, and that fact has also riven film politics. The non-aligned military government that came into power in 1968 subsidized cinema to some extent, and some serious artists, including Francisco Lombardi (La Ciudad y los Perros) and Federico Garcia, benefitted. In the late '80s and early '90s, a combination of economic crisis and the political crisis boldly featured by the rise of Sendero Luminoso has had devastating effects on filmmaking generally. (It is worth noting that the slums shown in Gregorio have the highest support for Sendero Luminoso.)
Importance: Within Peru, the film has drawn dramatically different reactions among different classes. According to members of Grupo Chaski, who often accompany the film, middle class audinces often criticize the film for harping on the ugly and depressing sides of national reality. In the slums, audiences often get engrossed in the main character's problems, with heated discussions afterwards of how he ought have solved them. It has been shown in festivals and is in limited, primarily educational distribution in shortened form (from c. 90 minutes to the c. 60 minute version available) in the U.S.Further reading:
Last updated on September 17, 1996
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