SFF22: ‘Utama’ Review

Utama is a monumental debut that blends themes about climate change and rigorous filmmaking.

Courtesy of Alma Films

There are moments where you truly realize you are watching something really special. I mean some films you can really tell that the director and team put so much care into it. What is even more special is when you watch a directorial debut that you can truly feel that its director is going to be an incredible force in cinema. When it comes to Utama, the film does all that and more.

Utama is written and directed by Alejandro Loayza Grisi. The film stars José Calcina, Luisa Quispe, Candelaria Quispe, Placide Ali, and Félix Ticona. The film is shot by cinematographer Barbara Alvarez. The film was part of the World Cinema Dramatic competition. Utama took home the Grand Jury Prize in World Cinema Dramatic.

In the film, we follow the journey of an elderly Bolivian couple who live in the rural areas of Bolivia. The couple is content with living on their land, but their grandson pays them a visit. Their grandson tries to convince them to move out, especially with a growing concern for the grandfather’s health. Along with health concerns, there is a fear of the diminishing amount of water that is readily available to the residents of the region.

Utama is a magnificent film through and through that is expertly crafted to communicate a multitude of themes. Its visual language is strikingly beautiful and framed with excellence to capture a pessimistic atmosphere. One would possibly find this a problem for them but if anything it kept me tied to the film. You can see the growing concern for the area and it is accompanied by a rich color palette. The cast works well to convey each of the emotions commanded by Grisi’s arresting direction. Utama is truly one of the best films of the festival but is a landmark in the director’s growing filmography.

Watch Utama when it makes its way to a screen near you.

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