International culture-clash movie narratives used to be about bridging gaps, language barriers, righting wrongs, learning, healing. How times have changed. Today, global discontent has bred a severe alteration in such portraiture, resulting in an endless flow of grim scenarios that are no less myopic for being harrowing and unresolved. The smaller our world has grown, the tighter our financial, social, and political concerns have become, the more distrustful the narratives. Two or more disparate civilizations coming together onscreen is now often the catalyst for distrust, melancholy, and often, finally outright disaster. As evidenced by films such as Babel and Mammoth, a reason for this might have less to do with the filmmakers’ philosophy or geopolitics than simple storytelling opportunism—tragedy is easier than comedy, death and trauma simpler to telegraph than genuine harmony (Before the Rain may have been a game-changer in this regard, but at least that film’s central theme was grounded in the vital wartime reality of its Balkan setting.) Protest scenes are easier to stage—emotionally, at least—than moments of benevolent human exchange; it takes less imagination to film a crestfallen woman staring at the incomprehensible, uncaring world from the side of a cliff, her hair blowing in the unforgiving wind, her cheeks streaked with tears, than to chart her daily, gradual growing awareness and acceptance of life’s harsh realities.
We get a lot of close-ups of women staring off wretchedly into the distance in Altiplano, the new film from the international directing and producing team of the Belgian Peter Brosens and American Jessica Woodworth that takes place in the Peruvian Andes. Read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Altiplano.