“Utama” (”Our Home”)
Screened at the 2022 Milwaukee Film Festival (4/5)
Knowing when to hold on and when to let go can be fraught with difficult, emotionally charged choices. So it is for an aging farming/ranching couple in the Bolivian highlands, where they have been facing an unusually long and devastating drought that threatens their way of life, not to mention their very existence. In their attempt to hang on, life becomes increasingly difficult, forcing them to consider their options, especially when their grandson visits and puts the question to them directly. Director Alejandro Loayza Grisi’s debut feature tells an intensely meditative heart-tugging tale photographed with stunningly gorgeous cinematography, backed by the fine performances of José Calcina, Luisa Quispe and Santos Choque, all in their premiere roles. There are some noticeable issues with the subtitling, and the pacing in the second half can be somewhat sluggish at times, but it gets far more right than not. And, for its efforts, this thoughtfully insightful offering captured the 2022 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema – Dramatic competition. This fine release is well worth a look, especially in a world where the cycle of death and rebirth has become such a profound element in environmental, cultural and spiritual circles, aspects of life that ultimately touch us all.