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Peruvian Movie Sets Record Amid Praise and Criticism

Peruvian feature film “Asu mare” is about to set a new record. More than two million people [es] have seen the movie in just three weeks of exhibition, a real record in the country's movie theaters.

Released in local theaters on Thursday, April 11, 2013, the 95-minute long film is based on the single-man show by popular Peruvian actor and comedian Carlos Alcántara, the man behind the whole production. In the movie, Alcántara pays homage and praises his mother, who raised her sons by herself in a populous Lima neighborhood, and how he managed to move on from some hard situations, seen by Alcántara from a mischievous point of view. But this particular mother, although sacrificed and devoted to her children, has a unique way of raising them.

Actor peruano Carlos Alcántara en el pre-estreno de la película "Asu Mare", protagonizada por él. El 10 de abril de 2013, Cinemark de Jockey Plaza. Foto via Wikimedia Commons, bajo licencia Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Carlos Alcántara during the avant premiere of Asu Mare. Image by Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Asu mare” [es] is an expression any Peruvian may easily understand. Asu mare can be roughly translated as “Oh, my God!”, but needs some further explanation so foreigners can get its full meaning. Asu mare is a shortened form of “para su madre” (for your mother), used as a way to express admiration and should not be taken in a derogatory sense.

The movie has garnered praises and criticism alike during its screening on local theaters.

Blogger Pachini, from The Markethink blog [es], shares his experience [es] with Asu mare:

[...] En la cola me preguntaba: Cuando fue la última vez que pague 19 soles [alrededor de 7 dólares] por una entrada para una película peruana, jamás. Así entre a la sala, con las ganas de reírme sin parar.

[...]

Cuando me senté en la sala, que tenía capacidad para 450 personas, pensé que a lo mucho se llenaría hasta la mitad. Todo lo contrario, una estampida de personas entro y se llenó. La película en sí, tiene todos los ingredientes para el éxito, ya que puede ser una historia como la de cualquier peruano emprendedor. Además, está ambientada en los anos 80’s de manera perfecta con una dirección y dirección de arte de las mejores que he visto en Perú.

[...] While waiting in line, I was wondering: When was the last time I paid 19 soles [about US$7] for a ticket to watch a Peruvian movie, never. So I got into the theater, looking forward to endless laughing.

[...]

When I sat down in the theater, with a capacity for 450 people, I thought that at the most, it will be half filled. Quite the contrary, a stampede of people came in and the theater became full. The movie itself has all the ingredients for success, as it might be the story of any self-motivated Peruvian. Furthermore, it's perfectly set in the 80’s with directing and art direction that are among the best I've ever seen in Peru.

He goes on to share a recommendation:

La gente no paraba de reírse. Estimados guionistas y directores, si quieren una película taquillera el ingrediente perfecto es el humor. Si quieren ganar un Oscar o algún premio en el extranjero, tendrán que hacer varias películas (sin tener mucho presupuesto) hasta dar en el clavo. Entiendan que ya estamos cansados de ver alcohol, sexo, drogas y sangre, lo vemos de lunes a viernes en los noticieros de la mañana, del mediodía y de la noche. El hecho del ir al cine es para relajarse. La película es corta, pero tiene altos y bajos que funcionan y que enseñan mucho. El público salió riéndose y comentando, lo que confirmo todo: UN ÉXITO.

The public couldn't stop laughing. My dear scriptwriters and directors, if you want a blockbuster movie, the perfect ingredient is humor. If you want to get an Oscar or some kind of award abroad, you'll have to produce several movies (without a big budget) until you hit the nail on the head. Please, be aware we are tired of seeing alcohol, sex, drugs and blood, we see that from Monday to Friday in news broadcasts, each morning, at noon, at night. Going to the movies means relaxing. The movie is short, but it has high and low points that really work and teach a lot. People left laughing and commenting on the film, and it confirmed everything: A SUCCESS.

The blog MarcaFreak [es], which focuses on commercial brands, notes five mistakes [es] in the box office hit and concludes:

Cabe indicar que ninguno de los detalles anteriormente mencionados opaca el éxito de la película y sus logros alcanzados en la taquilla local, sin embargo llamándose este blog MarcaFreak no podíamos dejarlos de lado.

It should be pointed out that none of the perviously listed details outshines the success of the film and its achievements in local box offices, but as this blog's name is MarcaFreak [BrandFreak] we couldn't leave them aside.

Meanwhile, Sumidero blog [es] offers a comprehensive analysis [es] of ‘Peruavianness’ and how it is evident throughout the movie:

El caso es que yo entiendo la peruanidad como el acto de sentirse realmente peruano. [...] Como sea, lo importante es aquí la peruanidad. Por lo menos lo que yo entiendo como peruanidad. Y es que la historia de ahora es la historia de una vida. La vida de un peruano vigente y del milenio pasado. Hablo de ¡Asu Mare! y de lo bonito que se siente ver en el cine una película peruana. Además está el detalle de que se trata de la primera película peruana que veo en una sala de cine.

The thing is, I understand Peruvianness as the act of one feeling really Peruvian. [...] Whatever, the important thing here is the Peruvianness. At least, what I understand as Peruvianness. The thing is, today's story is the story of a lifetime. The life of a current Peruvian and of the last millennium. I talk about ¡Asu Mare! and how nice it is to see a Peruvian movie in the movies. Besides that, there is the detail that this one is the first Peruvian movie I watch in a movie theater.

On the other hand, the website Cero contenido [es] has harsh criticism [es] for the film:

La historia pasa de Machín [nombre de un personaje de Alcántara] siendo niño a Machín buscando chicas a Machín fumando pasta [básica de cocaína] en un taco a Machín haciendo servicio militar. Ninguna de estas escenas tiene conexión con las demás o al desarrollo de la trama que es terriblemente arbitraria. La única motivación real que está más o menos presente en la película es que Machín quiere ser actor (más o menos) y al final lo consigue (de manera totalmente espontánea y sin ningún tipo de explicación o esfuerzo notorio). Sólo entra a una acedemia de clauns y en la siguiente escena ya está en la televisión. Vida resuelta.

The story goes from Machín [name of a well-known character by Alcántara] as a boy to Machín looking for girls, to Machín smoking coca paste in a billiard hall to Machín doing military service. None of these scenes has connection with the other ones or with the plot development, which is terribly baseless. The only real motivation that is kind of present all along the film is that Machín wants to become an actor (kind of) and at the end he gets it (in a totally spontaneous way and with no explanation at all or visible effort). He just gets into a clown school and in the next scene he is already on TV. His life is solved.

Leaving positive and negative opinions aside, what is true is that “Asu mare: la película” has become a box offices success in a country where piracy is almost the norm.

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