" I’ll be monitoring your frequency "
— Zoe Saldana, Star Trek

MRQE Top Critic

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People still live in the remote villages of Peru. They face poverty and the hardships of working the land, but their biggest cause for fear may be terrorism.

Terror in the Andes

Juan gets indoctrinated in the gorgeous, remote andes
Juan gets indoctrinated in the gorgeous, remote andes

Part travelogue, part political statement, part coming-of-age drama, Paloma De Papel (Paper Dove) follows Juan (Antonio Callirgos), a boy of about eleven, and his two best friends. He lives with his mother and stepfather Fermin who mistreats him.

To get away from Fermin, Juan hangs around the local blacksmith, a kindhearted, silver-haired man whose latest creation is an “anti-terruco” bell. He forges several bells that the townspeople can ring when they see terrucos (Communist terrorists) approaching.

The terrorist presence is revealed early on when the father of one of Juan’s friends is found dead, hung in front of the church. But the bells are not always enough to alert the townspeople. In one raid, the terrucos capture Juan and march him all day to their base of operations, a gorgeous, remote, high lake. Though Juan needn’t fear for his life, his innocence is in grave danger. The “Marxist, Maoist” terrucos are all too happy to have a new recruit with a soft, malleable mind.

How It Works

Paloma De Papel works very well as travelogue. The high lake is absolutely gorgeous. It’s almost distracting how pretty the remote, rocky peaks and cold, blue sky are. And the wide shots of the mountain village reveal Paloma De Papel to be the genuine article.

The movie also works well as armchair anthropology. It’s harrowing to see a boy being indoctrinated into a fanatical belief system, particularly one that hopes he will become a cold killing machine.

But here and there the movie seems to move too slow. Maybe not painfully so, but slow enough that it pays to let yourself get distracted by the scenery now and again. Don’t worry, you won’t be in danger of losing the thread of the plot.