Guanape Sur

Directed by Janos Richter

27 minutes / Color
Spanish / English subtitles
Release: 2011
Copyright: 2010

Guanape Sur. A barren rock island off the coast of Peru. No soil, no water. Nothing is growing here.

Around its shores a restricted area has been established. The island serves hundreds of thousands of sea birds as a breeding ground.

film still

One of its peculiarities is that for a period of ten years only two men may live on it, in the eleventh year though, hundreds of men simultaneously pounce on its slopes in order to recover the bird's bequests: dried excrement, an acrid mixture of nitrogen and phosphor compounds, potassium oxide and quicklime, which blunts one's sense of smell. It can be used as a fertilizer or for producing dynamite. Its name is one of the few words the world borrowed from the language of the Incas: guano.

film still

A war has been fought over guano. And even during peacetime, harvesting it from the sharp rock is a brutal fght. Everything on the island is done by hand.

"…provides an introspective visual peek into the backbreaking work and dramatically stark scenery involved in this hand harvest. …the attractive cinematography, with its combination of panoramic vistas and intimate human moments, gives the audience a window into the people behind this unusual Peruvian profession and an austere island seascape few of us will see in person."—Science Books and Films

"A barren island off the coast of Peru is the breeding ground for thousands of sea birds that are its sole inhabitants. Once every eleventh year, hundreds of men make their way to the island to harvest the birds' dried excrement, which is then used as valuable fertilizer. Through gorgeous cinematography and patient observation, Janos Richter offers an intriguing look at a most unlikely of jobs, in the most unlikely of places."—Sky Sitney, AFI Discovery Silver Docs

Other Ways to Watch


Available online from:

Colleges, Universities, Government Agencies, Hospitals, and Corporations

Purchase DVD for $248.00

Available for educational streaming from:


Janos Richter

Select Accolades

  • Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival 2012
  • Latin American Studies Association (LASA) 2012
  • Winner, David L. Wolper Award, International Documentary Association (IDA) 2011
  • Visions du Reel Documentary Film Festival 2012
  • HotDocs Documentary Film Festival 2012
  • International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2010


In the Peruvian Andes, in the town of Lucanamarca, old wounds are re-opened when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission arrives to investigate a massacre from 20 years ago.

Carlos Cardenas and Hector Galvez | 2009 | 69 minutes | Color | Spanish | English subtitles

Heddy Honigmann's latest film focuses on Peru's capital city of Lima, revealing the contrasts of wealth and poverty, and how its poorest citizens have survived decades of economic crisis and corruption.

Heddy Honigmann | 2009 | 93 minutes | Color | Spanish | English subtitles

Thirty years after civil war in Peru, three people go on a quest to recover from loss and heal the wounds left by violence.

Daniel Lagares and Mariano Agudo | 2018 | 75 minutes | Color | Spanish; Quechua | English subtitles