Filed under: The Isms, Video | Tags: against the grain, alberto fujimori, Alfredo Márquez, ann kaneko, Claudio Jiménez Quispe, Eduardo Tokeshi, el chino, Natalia Iguíñiz, peru, revolutionary art
Against the Grain – An Artist’s Survival Guide in Peru Dir. by Ann Kaneko, 2008
Summary from the documentary’s website:
Spanning two decades of corrupt governments and inept leaders, this film tells the story of four inspiring artists: Claudio Jiménez Quispe flees his home in Ayacucho because of insurgency with the Shining Path, a Maoist rebel group. He chronicles this violence in his retablos, traditional wooden display boxes. Alfredo Márquez, active in the 1980s underground punk scene, produces bold, political images despite four years of unjust imprisonment. With the downfall of former president Alberto Fujimori, critics targeted Japanese Peruvians like Eduardo Tokeshi, yet he reaffirms his identity through a series of red and white Peruvian flags. Natalia Iguíñiz provokes the Catholic Church and the socially conservative middle class with controversial images that challenge gender and class. Each artist teaches us what it means to persevere and make art in a country like Perú.
I watched this last night and was floored by how comprehensive Ann Kaneko, a Japanese-American filmmaker, analyzed the relationship between art, protest, corrupt politics, privilege, and race in Peru. Personal to me, I was captivated by the story of Eduardo Tokeshi, a second generation Japanese Peruvian who’s issues with identity and displacement command his art. Peru is interesting because it’s the first country on the continent to have an East Asian as president, Alberto Fujimori. Kaneko covers how Fujimori’s near facscist rule affected public perception towards the general Japanese community in Peru. Basically, dude gets elected after near economic collapse in 1990 due to his “slanty eyes” which convey the model minority stereotypes of honesty, hard work, and kindness; earning him the term of endearment “El Chino,” which is equivalent in the U.S. of people calling all Asians “Chinaman.” But after 10 years of human rights violations and authoritarian rule, those same “slanty eyes” flipped to stand for “thievery, greed, and imperialism” (watch the trailer). Crazy.
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