Lima Film Festival Review: Canción Sin Nombre (Melina León)

A troubled time in Peru, between galloping hyperinflation and the emergence of Sendero Luminoso, a terrorist guerrilla group with a Maoist inspiration. And this will be the context in which Georgina is expecting her first child. Facing a lack of resources, even the uncertainty of being able to provide her future baby with clothes to change after the birth, she is glad to find an announcement of a clinic that offers free care for pregnant women and their babies. But after giving birth, said clinic refuses to tell her where her baby is. Determined to find her daughter, she goes everywhere looking for help, but is faced with a justice system that looks away, that does not respond to the dilemmas of poor women. Her quest for justice takes her to the press, and that’s how she finds journalist Pedro Campos, in whom her case triggers an immediate curiosity, and he begins to investigate it.

Canción Sin Nombre, while saturated with photography in an almost lifeless black and white, is erupting with life, emulating the driving force of this woman for finding her daughter. Yes, she is shattered by the kidnapping of her infant, but she won’t let this sadness take hold of her, and her best way to fight it is by the steadfast resilience of her quest. She hopes to finally reunite with her baby and that possibility is what feeds her every day, even in a country which bends under the hyperinflation and constant terrorist attacks. She is ready to climb hills, to knock them down, to split the fog, to push her wheelbarrow, to climb any steps. A woman who no matter what will still be standing, who does not care to roll on the ground in her quest.

On the screen, everything is very slow, immersing you little by little in the core of each frame, which holds hidden in the 4/3 format a sleek sophistication, a particular work in composition and light. Yet this dense black and white of the picture can be too obvious at times, depicting visually too literally the oppressive times in which the story takes place, like each image is a replica of the dark hours of a living country which operates to the rhythm of the power cuts. Saying this, it is like the film frames Georgina’s quest as the only bright point in a sea of social and human tragedy: a light in a cold desert place where horror can easily hide within a population, marginalized by its own government, which forces them to live in a certain obscurantism and in a cruel environment that breaks not only families, but also a person’s individuality.

This film can be qualified as a constrained unity, sometimes stoic from the distance the camera creates. But even with this lack of proximity, I was still impressed at how director Melina León could make her characters’ actions, all their anger and abysmal loneliness, so deeply felt by us the viewers, who follow each step as León brilliantly reconstructs the climate of the time and its immediate consequences on these individuals.