Peruvian Princess Takes Charge of Her Destiny in Madeinusa

A 14-year-old Indian princess in the high Peruvian altaplana, "Madeinusa"—yes, that's her allegorical name—is ripe for the plucking. With no mother to protect her, that plucking will be done by her father, the village's mayor, during its anything-goes annual festival between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. "God, he's dead...there are no sins in Holy Time," she explains matter-of-factly to a gringo visitor from Lima named, no less allegorically, Salvador. Will Salvador save her from incestuous deflowering? Or will he deflower her first? Both options sound alarming, yet Claudia Llosa's beautifully photographed debut feature isn't a tragedy but a dark fairy tale in a strange Brigadoon beneath the Andes. And "Made" (the fiercely beautiful Magaly Solier) is anything but a helpless victim. She runs the household (despite her cunning younger sister) and hardly seems intimidated by her father. Dressed in lacy finery for the festival's parade of virgins, she has the proud, regal bearing of an ancient lineage, a force too strong for Catholic ritual (or American T-shirt labels) to contain. Indeed, during one odd, amusing scene, village women get to freely choose their sexual partners from men who first have their ties snipped off like...well, you get the idea. By film's end, Madeinusa appears less the innocent than a conquistador in reverse.

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