Quipu: Calls for Justice

Filmmaker Q&A with Directors Maria I. Court and Rosemarie Lerner

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Alan Berliner, Pamela Yates, Werner Herzog


What motivated you to make this film?

We decided to make a transmedia project about the forced sterilisation in Peru in the 90’s, because when we first learned about this story we noticed that it wasn’t only about the tragedies of the past but that there was a group of brave and resilient women who had been fighting for justice and to be heard for almost 20 years. It is not about us wanting ‘to give them a voice’, but instead help them tell their own stories in their own powerful voices and that is why we decided to approach the story in a participatory way, with a transmedia documentary.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Canon 5D + Sennheiser mics. Because of the budget available and because of the size of the equipment, since we were a small crew, needed to be personal as possible, discreet and didn’t want to make too much fuzz, we didn’t want to scare the people we worked with or create distance.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

The short film was the final stage of a bigger transmedia documentary called the Quipu Project. The short film follows the journey of the protagonists as they appropriate the project’s technology – the phones – as a tool in their fight for justice. Also we used some of the testimonies recorded through the interactive documentary’s phone line in the short film.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

At the beginning we thought we would make a feature film to tell the story. Then because of the magnitude of the sterilization case and the participatory approach we wanted to use, we first created, an interactive documentary accessible through a phone line to give access to local communities without access to the internet, and through the web to a global audience that we wanted to reach with the story and the testimonies of people affected by the government policy. We then understood that a short film format would be much more appropriate to contribute to the understanding and visibility of the topic. So as part of our impact campaign we broadcast the short film through a major newspaper outlet in partnership with the Guardian News and Bertha Foundation before leaving it accessible for public viewing and touring with film festivals and social & human rights campaigns.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film. 

The process of truly collaborating with different women from across Peru and being able to create something together with them. Since we have worked on this project for so many years we have been lucky to witness a community of sterilised women across the country growing bigger and stronger.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Choose a good team that shares the same conviction for telling the story. Each story will tell you how it needs to be told and what impact campaign is needed.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

Shooting, being in the field, because you get to relate to different places and people and that is when you most learn about the topic and life in general. It makes you reflect about humanity and how we relate to others through empathy and not through preconceived ideas.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

A smartphone. It allows you to do so many things with just one device.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

Some of the main characters of the film are midwives and healers. Maria, the co-director, was pregnant at the time we were shooting she was bitten by Teodula’s (one of our main characters) dog. So Esperanza (our main character) decided to massage Maria’s belly to relax the baby after the incident and she performed a ritual to both, connect with the baby and take the fear away.


Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?

The political context was very polarized in Peru when we were finishing shooting. There was a presidential election and this led to problems in the access to some of the characters. Also, the fact that the forced sterilisations are still being constantly politicised in the country has made it difficult to reach local audiences.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

We want them to listen to the people at the centre of this story.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

The impunity on the forced sterilisations case.

Fujimori’s ilegal pardon.

The digital divide and how we need to address it.

Women’s and reproductive and racial rights in Latin America


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?

The sterilization policy that our project and film denounces was launched under Alberto Fujimori’s government in the 90’s. Former said dictator Alberto Fujimori has recently pardoned and released from prison where he was serving an unfinished jail sentence for human right abuses and corruption. The current President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynsky gave the ‘humanitarian pardon’ on Christmas eve 2017. However many think that the pardon was illegal since it did not meet the legal requirements and instead was a political exchange with the Fujimorist party.

Alberto Fijumori has never been charged for the forced sterilisation cases or campaign. There has been no reparation, recognition or apology from him or his campaign. And now he is free!


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

They can visit www.quipu-project.com to listen and share the testimonies of those affected by the forced sterilisations in Peru who are still fighting for justice and against impunity. There are different women’s and human rights organisations that are working with the topic too. Please visit our website for a list of names.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):

Link interactive www.quipu-project.com

Link blog http://blog.quipu-project.com/home/

Link youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNSdhe_5KCyfpaRJlXVlrcg

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/quipuproject/?rc=p

Twitter @QuipuProject. https://twitter.com/QuipuProject

Instagram @quipu_project https://www.instagram.com/quipu_project/

*Dossier quipu https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/12Rq_Fj8-_thX2dmmn-KGA427IL_fJ7so



© SIMA Academy