The documentary film “Return to the Andes” screened at the School of Global and International Studies at 7 p.m. Sept. 18.
Mitchell Teplitsky, the film’s director and a Bloomington resident, also participated in a Q&A following the screening where he elaborated on the production process as well as the inspiration for the documentary. The film, a follow-up to Teplitsky’s 2007 documentary “Soy Andina,” follows his friend Nelida Silva as she returns to her Peruvian hometown of Llamellin. She helps local women start their own businesses, which eventually leads to her being asked to run for mayor.
“I’ve known Nelida for 30 years,” Teplitsky said. “She was an immigrant who volunteered as an English conversationalist. I wanted to learn Spanish, so we began talking and we became great friends, and she’s like family to me.”
According to Teplitsky, the film deals with the oppression of women in political and societal areas, and how the pursuit of social change in politics is universal.
“It’s a story about the continuing need for women to speak up and assert their voice and power, especially in a patriarchal society,” Teplitsky said. “There’s a message that politics isn’t the only or perhaps even the best way to make change. [Silva] is glad that she ran, she learned that the best way to make a change long-term is to build relationships and to work on the ground.”
Teplitsky described the production process as “messy, chaotic, uncomfortable and fun.” The production crew spent four weeks in a remote region of the Andes following a campaign that was spur-of-the-moment. Teplitsky tried interviewing the opposing candidates in the mayoral race, but because he was well known as being Silva’s friend due to the time he spent filming “Soy Andina,” the candidates were wary of his intentions.
“One night we all got stuck in a storm, and the roads washed out,” Teplitsky said. “We slept in the car with no food at 11,000 feet [above sea level]. It wasn’t all glamorous!”
After the documentary, Teplitsky spoke at a Q&A and answered questions ranging from how he met his wife in his previous movie to the limited perspective his film had in analyzing the Peruvian system of government.
“I’m not going to pretend that this was a full, objective record of politics in Peru or of this campaign,” Teplitsky said. “It’s filtered through her perspective and my perspective.”
The last topic Teplitsky focused on was his upcoming project, a documentary filmed entirely in and around the Bloomington area regarding local startup companies that focus on local composting efforts and rehiring ex-convicts. This upcoming project, which Teplitsky estimated would go through post-production by October, will be entitled “Earthkeepers."
This film is showing again at 1 p.m.Sept. 28 in the Newark Public Library in Newark, New Jersey. A DVD and digital download version of the film will be available to purchase in the coming months as well at Teplitsky’s personal website.