Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert is an investigative journalist who is writing, producing, and co-directing the feature documentary Uchuraccay, now in its final production stage. Valdivieso Hulbert was born in Lima, Peru in 1950 to a political activist family, during the military dictatorship of Manuel A. Odria. She remembers the first few years of her life as a time of great pressure for her family. A party they supported was proscribed and its members were repressed and persecuted. “We could see the Presidential Palace directly from our balcony, one block away. It was a dark presence during my early childhood, until 1956 when we had democratic elections.” Her education, first in an English school and later with Franciscan nuns, created a yearning for life abroad, mixed with the need to help people of lesser means. She spent her senior year in the United States in 1968. It was during the Vietnam-era that she acquired political awareness, which was further shaped by her college years in Peru’s Catholic University’s School of Journalism. In 1975 she became a news reporter for the national network, Telecentro, and later for Panamericana Television in Peru. In 1985, Valdivieso Hulbert joined the Spanish News Services at The Associated Press in New York, as an editor and translator. In the last decade, she began to train in documentary and filmmaking in New York University in order to achieve a longtime goal to document the contemporary history of her native Peru. “I started investigating the killings of eight journalists in Uchuraccay because I worked with five of them. It was only until I had a dream about the premiere of this film and Willy Retto thanked me for the making it, that I realized I had to make this documentary my life’s work.”
This is 90-minute independent documentary about a journalist who goes back to her country to investigate the mysterious murders of eight of her colleagues and their guide in the hamlet of Uchuraccay in the Andes of Peru in 1983.
I am Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert, a Peruvian journalist-filmmaker. I returned to Peru in 2005 after more than 20 years to start this project: the making of the Uchuraccay documentary (www.uchuraccay.com).
Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert during the scouting in the Ayacucho region 2010.
The journalists murdered were (left to right): Octavio Infante of Noticias de Ayacucho; Jorge Sedano of La República; Amador García of Magazine Oiga; Jorge Luis Mendívil of El Observador; Félix Gavilán and Pedro Sánchez of Diario de Marka; Willy Retto of El Observador and Eduardo de la Piniella of Diario de Marka. And their guide Juan Argumedo (not in the photo)
This project has become a mission since I had worked with five of them, covering stories in the late 1970’s and early ’80’s. My inspiration came from a dream in which I was attending this documentary premiere in New York, and Willy Retto, one of the murdered journalists, appeared smiling and thanked me for completing the film.
A few weeks later, I began gathering information and evidence on the case through witnesses, relatives of the deceased journalists and former colleagues in Peru. At the same time, I developed the structure of the documentary based on the trail these journalists followed, while they investigated possible extrajudicial killings in the highlands of Ayacucho unaware they were marching into their own demise. At the center of the film lies that very trail: first, they started by car from Huamanga, until they reached a place called Toccto, located at 12,000 feet above sea level. They were dropped off there and continued on foot for five hours, until they reached the point where they were killed: the hamlet of Uchuraccay. During these past years I have traveled to Uchuraccay several times and have talked to people in the area, as well as to people in Ayacucho and in Lima, Peru’s capital.
Directors Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert and Michele Cinque shooting in Lima in 2010.
I have gotten in contact with journalists who were working on the same story as the deceased journalists. The group of journalists with whom I’ve been working have shown an extraordinary level of commitment. In 2005, we scouted the area and conducted the first interviews. For the 25th anniversary of the murders, in 2008, I presented a first 30-minute rough cut using material gathered during the preproduction stage.
In 2010, while in New York, looking for funding and possible partners for the project, I met Michele Cinque, an Italian filmmaker from a Rome-based production company, Lazy Film. Since then, we have been working together as co-directors.
Michele Cinque preparing to film during the scouting trip.
In February 2010, our crew spent several weeks shooting around Uchuraccay and some parts of the trail the journalists took. We traveled there with some colleagues and close relatives of the deceased journalists.
Michele Cinque and Assistant Director Fiorella Lavado during the film shooting in Toccto in 2010.
Our crew is composed of Michele Cinque, co-director and Director of Photography; Assistant Director Fiorella Lavado; Line Producer Flavia D’Alessandro; Editors Roberta Canepa and Imre Balanli; Field Producers Carlos Valdez and Pedro Vega; Still-photographer Silvana Ximena; Writer Paola Hulbert; Researchers Francesca Garcia and Oscar Retto; and Historian Carlos G. Valer.
Lazy Film and Quinoa Films Inc. have pooled financial resources to fund the film. Thus far, we have produced about 80% of the imagery. For completion, we need three more interviews and to cover at least another 20% of the trail.
We have started our final round to collect funds, in order to pay for the last production stage, editing, archival video, music and postproduction. We are planning to complete the Project in 2015.
One percent of the profits of this documentary will go to each of the nine victims’ families.
Carmen with the Argumedo family in Chacabamba before shooting their walk returning to their land.
WHY THIS STORY NEEDS TO BE TOLD
The purpose of this documentary is to tell the full story about these journalists and the elements that surrounded their deaths during a bloody period in Peruvian history. During those times it was dangerous to be an investigative journalist, particularly in the Andean region.
Exhumation of the journalists’ bodies, January 30 1983.
After the murders in Uchuraccay, many local journalists were killed and some disappeared when they ventured into a region where, as we have learned in the decades that followed, almost 70,000 people were murdered.
This story honors journalists killed all over the world in the line of duty. It has contemporary relevance, as the Iraq war and other conflicts worldwide have left scores of journalists dead in recent years.
We have been talking with members of the military who have promised to talk about the Uchuraccay story.
Uncovering the truth about the murders will hopefully contribute to putting an end to years of impunity in Peru.
Many other cases of human rights abuses in neighboring areas have been reopened and those responsible have been convicted. The killings of Uchuraccay should not be the exception.
RISKS AND CHALLENGES
Since there have been forces interested in stopping the production of this documentary from its inception, we have taken precautions to protect our film material. We have made copies of the original and have placed them in various parts of the world, just in case our hard drives disappear from our current editing locations.
We are currently doing more investigations in an effort to corroborate a lead we got from a witness. His version creates a twist in the story we were following initially. And that might takes us to resolve some of the unanswered questions pending to this day.
Many people have asked me if I am scared or if my life could be at risk. I can only respond: The work is so advanced at this point, that if something were to happen to me before its completion, my team will finish Uchuraccay and will release it to the world.
By Fiorella Lavado / Translated to English by Paola Hulbert
There, where time and space meet, appear parallel universes.
Suddenly something happens. It can be an idea, a feeling, a response to an action that overwhelms the soul, a moment of passion, a blow; the feeling of powerlessness in the quest for truth and the inability to utter it, to know what to do and not be able to move, to find oneself at a crossroads and to want to follow all possible roads.
One propels atoms in all directions – an explosion that sends information through time to the present and to the future.
What is it that compelled a group of men to follow a desolate road? Was it perhaps the search for truth, the pursuit of ego, the passion for work?
What continues to motivate another group of men and women to do the same? To throw themselves into the abyss of creativity, to explore the roads that have knit themselves, like veins, upon the mountains through oblivion and the passage of time?
We find ourselves facing a situation we can no longer ignore. We live in different countries, belong to different generations, lives, experiences. Nonetheless, we too have suffered repression, have beheld how invisible walls of ignorance about the lives of others divide us, have seen injustice and are silently complicit with it.
I see a close-up within Willy Retto’s eyes; in them his attacker is reflected. The scene is overwhelming, voices intertwined in the confusion of knowing that the end is near. There is a blow, blood, silence –
In a dream, Willy appears before Carmen on that final road. He remembers her, tells her that it is she who can be a catalyst, a voice. But since in the world of dreams there is neither time nor space, only the moment, she dreams up years later, that moment. And he gifts her the passion to open the doors of the parallel universes so that she may become silent narrator, the one who listens. The timelines intertwine; the non-linear story, the time machine enters one’s body.
Willy, before departing, speaks with his girlfriend, tells her how he feels, looks at people, people look at him. He goes off recording, looking intently into the architecture of minds, walls, the silhouette of the mountains.
He knows he is pursued by ghosts, that they are already aware of his intentions, of his daring in exploring the future.
The masks of the enemy are reflected on the windows; they are shadows upon the greenery; they abruptly disrupt the view.
He constantly whispers in his father’s ear; to us, farther away, he shouts to continue forging ahead, like him, to the end.
Letter written by Willy Retto, published by “El Observador” Lima, Peru, on 4-2-83
A revealing letter sent by Willy Retto on January 25 (the day before he supposedly died)
Below is the content of a letter written by Willy Retto:
“I hope you can understand the reason for the way I talked to you on the telephone. Please understand, I don’t want you to worry about anything. I am taking care of myself as much as I can… I am sorry darling for my handwriting.
I am writing in a taxi on my way to the airport. My buddy… is departing very early and the access to the airport is restricted, because it is located in a military area. A lot of things are happening here that I never thought I would see and experience so closely in my lifetime. I see the poverty of the people, the fear of the peasants, the stress that reigns, it is similar for the Peruvian Investigative Police (PIP), tension in which they live is similar to the PIP (the investigative police and the GC (Guardia Civil) and the Army, as well as the Shining Path and innocent people.
I will do what I have to do as quickly as possible… but good luck is not on my side. I have had problems with a few rolls of film and that is why our conversation didn’t go as smooth as I would have liked. I know you understand me; today I am traveling to a town that can be reached, in about 4 hours by car, 3 hours on horses and another three, walking, according to what they have told me.
If I don’t call you it is because on Wednesday I will be going again to another town, located, about 4 hours by car and 8 eight hours on foot (round trip). They say it is a “liberated area”, meaning under the Shining Path control, “terrucos” (terrorists), as they called them.
Money is getting short, I only have enough to eat. I am hoping to be with you on Thursday.
Do not worry. If you call me, please, I am always surrounded by people who are spying either for the Shining Path or for the government, according to what everyone says, and we can not differentiate them. This is the reason why I don’t want to involve you in case the wrong information gets to Lima, due to misinterpretation. That is why I really can’t talk to you in detail. Take care of yourself as much as I do. I love you, Willy.”
WILLY RETTO / ¿Universos paralelos?
Por Fiorella Lavado
En un momento algo pasa, puede ser una idea, una emoción, una reacción ante algún acto que estremece el alma. Un momento de pasión, un golpe, el sentirse impotente por saber la verdad y no poder decirla, por saber qué hacer y no poder moverse por encontrarse en una intersección y querer seguir todas las rutas posibles.
Se disparan los átomos hacia todas las direcciones una explosión que envía información a través del tiempo hacia el pasado y futuro.
Qué fue lo que motivo a un grupo de hombres a seguir un camino desolado fue acaso la búsqueda de la verdad la persecución del ego la pasión por el trabajo.
Qué sigue motivando a otro grupo de hombres y mujeres a hacer lo mismo a lanzarse al vacío de la creación a explorar las rutas que se han tejido como venas en las montañas por el olvido y el paso del tiempo.
Nos encontramos frente a una situación que no podemos relegar más vivimos en distintos países pertenecemos a distintas generaciones, vidas, experiencias sin embargo somos los mismos los que hemos vivido la represión los que hemos visto cómo nos dividen las paredes invisibles de nuestra ignorancia por la vida del otro los que hemos visto la injusticia y participado silenciosamente de ella.
Veo un plano cerrado dentro de los ojos de Willy Retto en ellos, se refleja su atacante la escena es intensa la voces enredadas de la confusión de saber que se acerca el final hay un golpe, sangre silencio-
En un sueño Willy se presenta a Carmen en el camino hacia el final se acuerda de ella, que es ella quien puede actuar de catalizador, de voz… pero como en el mundo de los sueños no hay tiempo ni espacio sino momento preciso, ella sueña años después, en el momento preciso y él le regala esa pasión que le abren las puertas a los universos paralelos para poder convertirse en la narradora silenciosa, la que lo escucha. Los tiempos se entrelazan; la historia no lineal; la máquina del tiempo está dentro de uno mismo.
Willy y el grupo antes de partir por las callecitas, habla con su novia le expresa sus emociones mira a la gente la gente lo mira a él, y se va grabando, tallando en la arquitectura de las mentes, en las paredes, en los perfiles de las montañas.
Él sabe que lo persiguen los fantasmas, que ya están al tanto de sus intenciones, de su atrevimiento a explorar el futuro.
Las máscaras de los enemigos se reflejan en las ventanas, son sombras en el verde, cortan abruptamente el plano largo.
En todo momento le susurra a su padre en el oído, nos grita a nosotros más lejanos, que sigamos adelante como él, hasta el final.
CARTA DE WILLY RETTO
Publicada por el diario “El Observador” 4-2-83
REVELADORA CARTA QUE ENVIO WILLY EL 25
El siguiente es el texto de la carta de Willy Retto:
“Espero sepas comprender el por qué de mi actitud por teléfono. Por favor comprende, no quiero que te preocupes por nada, me estoy cuidando lo más que puedo… disculpa cielo mi letra.
Te escribo desde un taxi, rumbo al aeropuerto, mi pata… viaja muy temprano y la entrada al aeropuerto es restringida, ya que es zona militar. Ocurren aquí muchas cosas que jamás en mi vida pensé pasar y vivirlas tan de cerca. Veo la pobreza de la gente, el temor de los campesinos y la tensión que se vive es pareja para la PIP, GC y Ejército como para Sendero y gente inocente.
Procuro hacer las cosas lo más rápido posible y estar lo más pronto posible… pero la buena suerte me acompañó muy poco, ya que tuve problemas con unos rollos, motivo por el cual la conversación no fue del todo agradable. Sé que me entiendes; hoy viajo a un pueblo que queda a, según dicen, no sé, 4 horas en carro, 3 a caballo y 3 a pie.
Si no te llamo es porque el miércoles salgo nuevamente a otro pueblo, donde son 4 horas en carro y 8 horas (ida y vuelta) a pie. Dicen que es zona liberada, o sea zona de Sendero, “Terrucos” como aquí les dicen.
La plata se acorta y ya casi no tengo dinero más que para comer, espero estar a tu lado el jueves.
No te preocupes. Si me llamas, por favor, siempre tengo gente a mi alrededor y dicen, es gente de Inteligencia, tanto de Sendero que no sabes quienes son, como del Estado, motivo por el cual no quiero comprometerte, por posibles malas informaciones en Lima quizás cambien. Por eso no te puedo hablar bien. Cuídate mucho como yo lo hago. Te ama Willy”.
By JORGE GALLARDO (@_jorgegallardo)
I have received via Twitter a very interesting proposal. The journalist, Carmen Valdivieso, and the director, Michele Cinque, are making a documentary about the mysterious murders of eight journalists in the Peruvian Andes in 1983. Tired of knocking on the doors of producers who seek a quick return on their investment, they have decided to seek financing for their project through Kickstarter: a site where cybernauts can fund ideas with any amount of money they like.
At this point the proposal “Uchuraccay” has received $1,483 out of the $40,000 needed, with the support of twenty-six people. In this set-up, cybernauts feel invested in a project they believe must move forward. Additionally, supporters can appear in the project’s credits as executive producers, if they donate $1,000. The more you pay, the greater your involvement in the project: to the point of being present during the filming in Peru, if you donate more than $10,000.
That is to say, the audience no longer just selects what it watches but also chooses what films are produced. Isn’t the Internet fascinating? This new type of production of audiovisual material has another positive element: the financing of independent projects without the power infrastructure found in large companies.
The internet shows itself to be key in global democracy, with these type of, paradoxically local, proposals which ensure audio-visual liberty; and pave the way for documentaries that would otherwise not see the light of day. I have just seen the teaser, and I am eager to know what happened in the case of these cruelly murdered colleagues. I hope the necessary funds are raised.
The strategy of micro-patronage has already worked in Spain, with the premiere of the film, “The Cosmonaut.” It received the support of 5,000 small contributors. In this sense, the Internet has not only revolutionized the way in which we consume audiovisual material, but has begun to give the anonymous masses a power greater than the status quo’s to decide what projects get produced. Wonderful!
I am independent all the way.
(Translation by Paola Hulbert. See original in Spanish at Jorge Gallardo’s blog: http://bit.ly/15qkm6w )