The slopes overlooking the tiny Peruvian village of Rapayan are dotted with the remarkably well-preserved ruins of an indigenous settlement that predates the Inca conquest. It is a virtual city, complete with homes, a castle, a fortress, mausoleums, murals, subterranean galleries and mummified remains of its ancient inhabitants. As an archeological discovery, it is larger, richer and older than the celebrated Macchu Pichu.
RAPAYAN follows the efforts of archaeologist Alexis Mantha, who "discovered" the historic ruins, and his Peruvian colleagues Hernando Malea and Jorge Cotrina, as they uncover and research this unknown civilization, revealing insights into the political, economic and religious aspects of the Andean Middle Ages.
The village below, where descendants of that ancient civilization live, has only recently begun to modernize, with the arrival of electricity and the construction of the first asphalt road. Through interviews with the archaeologists, village residents, school children, the mayor and local politicians, the film reveals the uneasy relationship between villagers and scientific outsiders, who are suspected of stealing historical artifacts and profaning graves.
RAPAYAN exposes an intriguing cultural conflict between Rapayan's residents, less concerned with the past as they contend with the forces of modernization and globalization, and archaeologists eager to examine and preserve an ancient cultural patrimony. Can people confront the future when they have forgotten where they came from?
"The film is especially thought-provoking as it speaks directly to the misunderstandings and misinterpretations that frequently take place between researchers and the communities in which they work...Rapayan is an important case study in the struggle to recover and protect the cultural heritage of the past and the present. As such, the relevance of this film reaches beyond the Andean researchers and offers insights for students and scholars interested in processes of globalization and modernization in indigenous communities everywhere, as well as in the confluence of the archeological pursuits and indigenous perspectives on the archeologists' motivations. This film is a good fit with a wide range of courses in anthropology, archeology, Latin American studies, and globalization." —The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History
2010 Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
2010 Audience Award, Rassegna Internazionale del Cinema Archeologico, Italy
2009 Globians Doc Fest, Berlin
2009 Chashama Film Festival, New York
2009 Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival