The movie


In the Bolivian highlands, an elderly Quechua couple has been living the same daily life for years. During an uncommonly long drought, Virginio and Sisa face a dilemma: resist or be defeated by the environment and time itself.

Length: 87 min
Language spoken: Spanish, Quecha
Language subtitles: Dutch
Cast: José Calcina, Candelaria Quispe, Luisa Quispe
Director: Alejandro Loayza Grisi
Release date: 08/06/2023


‘Utama’ opens with the stunningly beautiful image of an elderly man walking toward the sun rising golden over the mountains. This is Virginio (nonprofessional actor José Calcina), whose weathered face is as cracked as the earth beneath his feet. Virginio spends his days wandering the scorched plateau—the ‘Altiplano’—of Bolivia's Andes Mountains, grazing his herd llamas. He and his wife Sisa (Luisa Quispe, also a nonprofessional) live without running water and without electricity. It's Sisa's job to fetch water, while Virginio grazes the llamas. The problem, however, is that there is no longer any rain in the region and the snow no longer shows itself on mountain tops. The village well has now dried up. The truth is that climate change is making life unbearable—not that global warming is ever spoken of. The couple's grandson, Clever, wants his grandparents to move to the city with the rest of the family. What he doesn't understand is that the question for Virginio and Sisa is not where to live, but where to die…

‘The Bolivian writer-director Alejandro Loayza Grisi has a background in still photography, and it shows. He has a feel for the drama of colour, form, scale, and light, as well as a sensitive collaborator in his cinematographer, Bárbara Alvarez… With a lucid eye and a steady camera, he captures the region’s brutal beauty, using stark contrasts—like birds-eye views of isolated houses and people—to accentuate its extremes.’—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times