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UTAMA Comes To Aventura: Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival

March 10, 2023

Kino Lorber, an International Film Distributor based in New York is proud to announce the U.S. theatrical release of UTAMA, the visually stunning debut feature by Bolivian Filmmaker Alejandro Loayza Grisi. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize (World Cinema Dramatic) at the Sundance Film Festival, UTAMA was recently announced as Bolivia’s official Oscar® submission for Best International Feature. Lensed by Award-Winning Cinematographer Barbara Álvarez (Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman), this moving drama of cultural survival amidst an urgent climate crisis signals the auspicious cinematic breakthrough of Loayza Grisi.

From The Director
In the Bolivian highlands, at more than 3,500 meters above sea level, climate change is forcing communities to change their customary ways of life. Rainy seasons are becoming shorter and droughts are lasting longer, glaciers are thawing and water is becoming scarce, the nights are getting colder and the days hotter. It is one of the most exposed and most vulnerable territories to climate change on Earth.

The already hostile territory is becoming increasingly inhospitable, forcing native populations to migrate to cities where they do not know how to live and where they face a language that is not their own. They have very few opportunities in this new environment, particularly the oldest among them. Therefore, many elders are reluctant to join the enormous migration of recent years that has left the Bolivian countryside increasingly uninhabited.

I was born and raised in La Paz, a city that has historically received Aymara migrants from the nearby Altiplano countryside. Our city, our beliefs and our ways of being have been strongly marked by the coexistence between both Spanish and Aymara cultures. But despite this history, very few of our inhabitants are aware that some of the first great victims of climate change are only a few kilometers away.

I believe that telling a story from the point of view of those people who are very close to us, who still live in the countryside and face the agony of seeing their way of life disappear, is vital for understanding the human cost of climate change. It allows us to consider the collateral damage of our current way of life and to rethink our role as inhabitants of La Paz (and of other cities with similar conditions).

UTAMA is a cautionary tale. Elderly people can represent a lost consciousness and a wisdom that is seldom heard. They can represent the warnings we overlook. The characters of Virginio and Sisa, with all the wisdom gained through their years, represents a culture that has seen its younger generations lose their language and beliefs as they assimilate with an increasingly globalized world. The Quechua culture, its views on death, life and nature, is one we know very well in La Paz, but it is disappearing.

UTAMA is also a love story. The intimacy of Virginio and Sisa’s relationship can be felt through the minimal gestures between them and the silences that dominate them – silences that can develop in decades-long relationships. Regardless of the cultural differences between these characters and the audience, I wanted to show their love as a universal force.

Aesthetically, I come from the world of still photography and I am interested in working in the intersections of image and silence, where the most profound meanings are found: loss, acculturation and degradation of nature. Stylistically, each shot means something unto itself, but within the context of a film they enrich the narrative. The wide landscapes, the portraits highlighting the characters deep gazes and the moments of silence are my tools to tell a story that deeply questions the social, environmental and human issues in these times of change.

UTAMA is ultimately a story about one of the most underrepresented places on Earth, but it is also a universal story that could be set in any community that is facing similar social and environmental problems. It is a story told through the eyes of a humble couple who face death and the loss of their values and customs. But there is still the possibility of perseverance and preservation. Although it seems like a tragedy, I want the film to bring hope.

UTAMA is part of the Aventura International Film Series. The screening is general admission and is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. The Lobby opens at 6:30 p.m. and the auditorium opens for seating at 7:00 p.m. The final three films in the series will be announced soon.

Your Host, Shelly Isaacs
As well as your host and programmer for this annual series at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, Shelly is the Founder, Programmer and Host, for The Cafe Cinematheque and Senses of Cinema programs at many venues throughout South Florida, including, the Movies of Delray, Movies of Lake Worth and The Boca Museum of Art. He has enjoyed a 30-plus year career, as a Creative Director/Writer, in advertising with an emphasis on Film, TV, Radio Advertising and Production. Isaacs holds an MA in Media Ecology Studies from New York University, where he served as an Adjunct Professor in Cultural Studies. Presently, he teaches Foreign-Language Film Appreciation, in the Life Long Learning Society at Florida Atlantic University and at Florida International University. In 2009, Isaacs launched Cinematheque at Sea, offering audiences who appreciate Foreign-Language Films, an opportunity to experience his program of specially-selected films, while on a luxury cruise. He is the film expert for Celebrity Cruise Lines, during their annual voyage to the Cannes International Film Festival, as well as, on other scheduled, film related cruises, throughout the world.

Ticketmaster is the only official ticketing service of the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. Buy tickets online at: By phone at: (877) 311-7469 or at: (954) 462-0222. Or in person at: The Aventura Arts & Cultural Center's Box Office, Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. and 90 minutes prior, to each performance. For Group Sales, please call: (954) 660-6307.

The Aventura Arts & Cultural Center is located at 3385 Northeast 188th Street, Aventura Florida 33180.

Showing: Tuesday, April 4th, 2023 - 7:30 p.m.
Event Detail Venue: Aventura Arts & Cultural Center
Price: Seats Start at $12.00
Availability: Buy Tickets Now
Door Opening: 6:30 p.m.
Bolivia’s Official Submission to the 95th Academy Awards

In the Bolivian highlands, an elderly Quechua couple has been living the same daily routine for years. When an uncommonly long drought threatens their entire way of life, Virginio and Sisa face the dilemma of resisting or being defeated by the passage of time. With the arrival of their grandson Clever, the three of them will face, each in their own way, the environment, the necessity for change and the meaning of life itself. This visually jaw-dropping debut feature by photographer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Loayza Grisi is lensed by Award-Winning Cinematographer Barbara Alvarez (Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman) and won the Grand Jury Prize (World Cinema Dramatic) at the Sundance Film Festival.

Quechua and Spanish with English subtitles. Not Rated. Running time is 87 minutes.

Hosted by Shelly Isaacs who will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.

All screenings are General Admission and begin at 7:30 p.m. Lobby opens at 6:30 p.m. and the Auditorium opens for seating at 7:00 p.m.

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