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A journalist goes back to her country to investigate the mysterious murders of eight of her colleagues in the Andes of Peru in 1983.

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I am Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert, a Peruvian journalist-filmmaker. I returned to Peru in 2005 after more than 20 years to start this project: the making of the Uchuraccay documentary (www.uchuraccay.com). I went in search of answers in the case of the murder of eight journalists and their guide in a hamlet called Uchuraccay, in the Ayacucho region in the Central Andes of Peru in 1983.

Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert during the scouting in the Ayacucho region 2010.
Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert during the scouting in the Ayacucho region 2010.

These journalists were: Eduardo de la Piniella, Pedro Sánchez and Félix Gavilán of Diario de Marka; Jorge Luis Mendivil and Willy Retto of El Observador; Jorge Sedano of La República; Amador García of Magazine Oiga and Octavio Infante of Noticias de Ayacucho, and their guide Juan Argumedo.

From left to right: Octavio Infante, Jorge Sedano, Amador Garcìa, Jorge Louis Mendìvil, Félix Gavilàn, Pedro Sànchez, Willy Retto, Eduardo De la Piniella.
From left to right: Octavio Infante, Jorge Sedano, Amador Garcìa, Jorge Louis Mendìvil, Félix Gavilàn, Pedro Sànchez, Willy Retto, Eduardo De la Piniella.

This project has become a mission since I had worked with five of them, covering stories in the late 1970’s and early '80’s. My inspiration came from a dream in which I attended a premiere for this documentary in New York, and Willy Retto, one of the murdered journalists, smiled and thanked me for completing the film. 

A few weeks later, I began gathering information and evidence on the case through witnesses, relatives of the deceased journalists and former colleagues in Peru. At the same time, I developed the structure of the documentary based on the trail these journalists followed, while investigating possible extrajudicial killings in the highlands of Ayacucho -- unaware they were marching into their own demise. At the center of the film lies that very trail: first, they started by  car from Huamanga, until they reached a place called Toccto, located at 12,000 feet above sea level.  They were dropped off there and continued on foot for five hours, until they reached the point where they were killed: the hamlet of Uchuraccay. During these past years I have traveled to Uchuraccay several times and have talked to people in the area, as well as to people in Ayacucho and in Lima, Peru's capital. 

Directors Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert and Michele Cinque shooting in Lima in 2010.
Directors Carmen Valdivieso Hulbert and Michele Cinque shooting in Lima in 2010.

I have gotten in contact with journalists who were working on the same story as the deceased journalists. The group of journalists with whom I've been working have shown an extraordinary level of commitment. In 2005, we scouted the area and conducted the first interviews. For the 25th anniversary of the murders, in 2008, I presented a first 30-minute rough cut using material gathered during the preproduction stage.

In 2010, while in New York, looking for funding and possible partners for the project, I met Michele Cinque, an Italian filmmaker from a Rome-based production company, MRF5 Film. Since then, we have been working together as co-directors.

Michele Cinque preparing to film during the scouting trip.
Michele Cinque preparing to film during the scouting trip.

In February 2010, our crew spent several weeks shooting around Uchuraccay and some parts of the trail the journalists took. We traveled there with some colleagues and close relatives of the deceased journalists.

Michele Cinque and Fiorella Lavado during the film shooting in Toccto in 2010.
Michele Cinque and Fiorella Lavado during the film shooting in Toccto in 2010.

Our crew is composed of Michele Cinque, co-director and Director of Photography; Assistant Director Fiorella Lavado; Line Producer Flavia D'Alessandro; Editors Roberta Canepa and Imre Balanli; Field Producers Carlos Valdez and Pedro Vega; Still-photographer Silvana Ximena; Writer Paola Hulbert; Researchers Francesca Garcia and Oscar Retto; and Historian Carlos G. Valer.

MRF5 Film and Quinoa Films Inc. have pooled financial resources to fund the film. Thus far, we have produced about 80% of the
imagery.  For completion, we need three more interviews and to cover at least another 20% of the trail.

We have started our final round to collect funds, in order to pay for the last production stage, editing, archival video, music and postproduction. We are planning to complete the Project in May 2014.

One percent of the profits of this documentary will go to each of the nine victims’ families.

Carmen with the Argumedo family in Chacabamba before shooting their walk returning to their land.
Carmen with the Argumedo family in Chacabamba before shooting their walk returning to their land.

WHY THIS STORY NEEDS TO BE TOLD

The purpose of this documentary is to tell the full story about these journalists and the elements that surrounded their deaths during a bloody period in Peruvian history. During those times it was dangerous to be an investigative journalist, particularly in the Andean region.

Exhumation of the journalists' bodies, January 29 1983.
Exhumation of the journalists' bodies, January 29 1983.

After the murders in Uchuraccay, many local journalists were killed and some disappeared when they ventured into a region where, as we have learned in the decades that followed, almost 70,000 people were murdered.

This story honors journalists killed all over the world in the line of
duty.  It has contemporary relevance, as the Iraq war and other conflicts worldwide have left scores of journalists dead in recent years.

We have been talking with members of the military who have promised to talk about the Uchuraccay story.

Uncovering the truth about the murders will hopefully contribute to putting  an end to years of impunity in Peru. Many other cases of human rights abuses in neighboring areas have been reopened and those responsible have been convicted. The killings of Uchuraccay should not be the exception.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

We have completed about 80% of the documentary production. We need funding to finish production and to begin editing and postproduction.
Since there have been forces interested in stopping the production of this documentary from its inception, we have taken precautions to protect our film material. We have made copies of the original and have placed them in various parts of the world, just in case our hard drives disappear from our current editing locations.

Many people have asked me if I am scared or if my life could be at risk. I can only respond: The work is so advanced at this point, that if something were to happen to me before its completion, my team will finish Uchuraccay and will release it to the world.

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