Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a Maoist group established in the 1970s by philosophy professor Abimael Guzmán, had by 1980 developed an armed guerrilla presence in the Peruvian countryside. Aiming to overthrow the government, Shining Path militants attempted to recruit Quechuan peasants to join their struggle.
When the movement's brutal methods and dictatorial style were rejected by the peasants, resulting in the death of local Shining Path leaders, the guerrilla movement launched a campaign of violence throughout the Andean region, most notably the April 1983 massacre of 69 people, including children and pregnant women, in the farming village of Santiago de Lucanamarca.
Some 20 years later, LUCANAMARCA shows the arrival of Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to exhume the bodies of the victims in order to establish their identities and causes of death, both as evidence in a trial of Guzman and other Shining Path leaders, and to return the remains for proper burial. But the commission's efforts also reawaken old enmities among some of the villagers.
In addition to showing the efforts of the forensic anthropologists, LUCANAMARCA features interviews with survivors of the massacre, villagers who recount the activities of Shining Path in the region-including the still ostracized siblings of a town leader appointed by Shining Path and who was killed in retribution by angry villagers-and who provide eyewitness testimony of Shining Path atrocities in the 2005 trial of Guzmán in Lima.
By the conclusion of LUCANAMARCA, however, after the victims' remains have received a mass ceremonial burial, other aftereffects of those violent years become apparent, including tensions between former adherents of Shining Path and members of the Association of Victims of April 3rd, whose government benefits generate feelings of envy and jealousy throughout the community. Abimael Guzman may now be serving a life sentence in prison, but the history of Lucanamarca shows just how elusive justice can sometimes be.
2012 Official Selection, Perufest at New York University
2010 Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
2009 Guadalajara International Film Festival
2008 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam