From St Andrews to the Andes

Friday 24 June 2016


A film made by two St Andrews students to highlight the human element of climate change will be shown for the first time this weekend (Saturday 25 June).

Pachamama, a documentary about an indigenous population in the Bolivian Andes, will be premiered at a special screening at the University at the end of Graduation week.

The new film, by Alice Rowsome and Eliza Upadhyaya, provides a unique insight into the lives of the Kallawayas population. Thought to trace back to the pre-Inca period, the Kallawayas are renowned for their treatment of the Earth, which they treat with the same level of care as their loved ones.

pachamama-mainbody-2The student film-makers hope that shedding light on this unique perspective of the environment will provide a new way of thinking about the effects of climate change.

Alice said: “The Kallawayas revere the Earth, which they call Pachamama, and treat it with the same level of care as they would treat their loved ones. As such this community provides an inspiring lens through which to consider our planet.

“This deeply human experience of climate change, often neglected in mainstream climate change narratives, is the pillar of our documentary. As such, we hope to bring a fresh perspective on this issue, which fundamentally concerns all of us and the future of this planet.”

The Kallawayas population consists of traditional healers and, as such, they heavily rely on plants to survive. Having been affected by climate change for over a decade, they have no doubt about its reality, and have had to find innovative ways to adapt.

To make the film happen, Alice, Eliza and fellow St Andrews student Nicole Sanjines trekked for miles with equipment on donkeys, through rivers and steep hills up to Chacarapi, a village located in the Andes, approximately 5000 meters above sea-level.

For two months, they lived as part of the community, taking part in all activities from potato peeling to alpaca skinning, and in parallel captured more than twenty hours of footage and interviews.

Alice continued: “The Kallawayas rely on hundreds of plants in order to practice their traditional medicine – they pioneered the use of quinine in malaria treatment. Yet, their extensive knowledge remains at risk of being lost as they struggle to survive in the delicate, and now, threatened mountainous region in which they have lived for centuries, as many have no choice but to migrate to the cities.

pachamama-mainbody-3“A strong interest in climate change and indigenous peoples led us to produce, direct and edit this film, which started off as a research project in St Andrews, into how indigenous communities, deeply connected to their land, were being affected by the changing environment. We quickly came across the Kallawayas and after talking with the community there, the idea for this documentary was born.”

‌The film – which has had the blessing of the Kallawayas – was funded through collaboration with educational institutions, including the University of St Andrews, and a Kickstarter campaign. The documentary is now in its last stages of post-production and the students hope to take it to film festivals after the special St Andrews preview.

José Mendoza Barrea, the Assembly member for the Kallawaya Nation in the Plurinational Assembly of the La Paz, Bolivia, said: “We are incredibly grateful to the filmmakers for taking on this project.”

Pachamama will be shown at the Buchanan Lecture Theatre, University of St Andrews, Union Street, on Saturday 25 June at 12pm (to 1.30).  Entrance is by donation to the project.

Note to Editors

Alice is available for interview on 07590 488 952 (mobile).

Alice and Eliza both graduated this week.

Note to picture editors

Image captions: (top) Nicole, Eliza and Alice photographed with the family they lived with and filmed; (middle) School, Chacarapi; (bottom) One of the forty alpacas in the village. Due to the changing climate many have died, which is a pressing issue for the community who rely on these animals to survive.

Stills of the documentary and photos of the students on location are available via Dropbox. There is also a trailer for the documentary, a website on the project and a screening Facebook event, as well as information on the Kickstarter Campaign that supported the project.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews, contactable on 01334 462530 or email [email protected].

Category Student experience

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