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We will live with and interview individuals of indigenous groups across Peru to preserve and share their wisdom and way of life.
49 backers pledged $3,981 to help bring this project to life.


La Gente de la Tierra - A Documentary in Peru project video thumbnail
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    • English
    • Español (México)




This film will be an investigation into how the natural world has influenced Peruvian art, culture, and spirituality in the past and present. My partners Ben Keller, Mason Stilwell, and I will be interviewing people from indigenous groups of the Andes, the coast, and the Amazon with the help of translators and local guides from the Quechua, Aymara, and the Ashánika people.

The prevailing themes of this documentary will be:  

1. The incredible and constant intersection of the arts and the sciences, especially amongst the indigenous cultures of the Americas.  

2. The different influences that natural surroundings have on a peoples art, culture, spirituality, and day to day life.  

3. The need to preserve our planet and the unique and distinctive indigenous cultures that put it at the center of their cosmology, this being done with a look into how these cultures are coping with the changes that modern-day society has brought.


The primary filming and interviews will begin July 9th. We will begin in Lima and bus South through Ayacucho to Cusco to the Apurimac region to Tiruyo and finally to Tacna. From the South we will fly out of Arequipa to Tumbes, Peru in the very North. From there we will bus back South through the villages of Máncora to Chiclayo to Trujillo to Cajamarca to Lima where we will end our project and head home.

 As far as the progression through different indigenous groups: 

  • We will begin with the Quechua people, the largest indigenous group in South America. We will focus on communities in the villages of Tiruyo in the altiplano of Peru, groups in Ayacucho and Huaraz in the Andes, and will visit villages in the North foothills and coast. 
  • Next will be the Ayamara who are mostly located in the altiplano near Lake Titicaca in the villages of Puno and then in Tacna by the coast.
  • The Asháninka are located mostly in the Peruvian Amazon’s interfluvial region “Gran Pajonal” along the rivers Apurimac and Ene to the South.


The interviews and perspectives of the locals are what will shape the direction of the film and provide the most compelling message. We will conduct over a dozen interviews with individuals from all walks of life, but the focus of our questions will generally be the same. Here are some of the ideas we will pursue:

  • What are some traditions, beliefs, or spritituality connected to the environment that have been passed down through your family/community?
  • What are some recent changes in your physical surroundings you have observed? 
  • What relevant stories and legends can you tell me about yours and others experiences in your [village, river, valley, area]?
  • In what way do the businesses and corporations that mine and use the land near you impact you or your community? 
  • How have 'modernization' processes in these areas transformed these landscapes or your way of life? (e.g., rising water levels, deforestation, urbanization, desertification).     

The Film  

The explanations of their life stories, creation myths, experiences and beliefs will be coupled with visual footage of the places where these journeys, cultures, and legends were born. By documenting the connections that many people in Perú have with their environment, I wish to revitalize my audience’s desire to protect and enjoy the natural world. Finally, this documentary will be a way to record and document the ancient indigenous cultures of Perú, many of which are dying out and being lost.

Using our background in the sciences we will explore the role geophysical processes have in these people’s landscapes and how this influences the beliefs and ways of living of these people. We hope to draw connections between the diverse physical lands these people live on with their belief systems. The documentary will also explore the effect that globalization, tourism, climate change, and logging/fuel/mineral companies are having on their livelihoods, and will be a insight into the preservation of threatened cultures.


The Team  

Mitchell Tijerina

 At Denison University in Ohio, I am a Geosciences major and Spanish minor, but I also have ample experience with film and video. During the past year, while at home in Columbus I have worked with and assisted a cinematography company made up of all Denison alumni, Loose Films. I have been studying Peruvian History and Culture class at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) in Lima, and have been working in collaboration with Comunicación Audiovisual department of PUCP to begin research and filming of my documentary. In the future I hope to work with indigenous culture’s land rights and protection in South America and this is a great way to begin this journey. 

 Benjamin Keller

 Ben graduated from Denison with a BS in Physics and minors in Math, Music, and Geoscience, and is about to begin a Masters program in Technology Innovation. Ben is an experienced documentary filmmaker, and has been creating documentaries for over 8 years, shooting his first feature in China on a mentorship program for Left Behind children, and currently finishing editing on a documentary in Costa Rica about a humanitarian non-profit. You can view some examples of his work here:        Trailer for ‘Humanitaria’               ‘Left Behind’ 

 Mason Stilwell 

Mason graduated from St. Olaf with a BA in Biology and Computer Science, with a concentration in Mathematical biology. Mason has been a photographer for 3 years with a focus on travel photography. Most recently he has won awards in three different contests for his photos of Morocco. Within the last year he has begun to explore filmmaking, with this being his first full-length project.  You can see his photography here:   Instagram

My Contacts 

The connections that I have made during my semester in Peru will and have been fundamental in providing access to contacts in the indigenous villages as well as leading experts in the field. A few important people that I am currently working with include: 

Claudia Reyes, Assistant Director of CIEE study abroad program in La Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Perú (PUCP).- Extensive time spent with and field work done with the Ashaníka people in the Enes river basin.

Dr. Juan Carlos Callirgos, Head of Sociology/Anthropology Department in PUCP. -Extensive field work done with the Aymara people in Puno and Tiruyo as well as other groups across Peru. 

Prof. Julio Noriega Bernuy, Professor of Modern languages and Specialist in Quechua, Knox College and Univ. Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima Prof. 

Javier Morales Mena, Professor of Language and Human Sciences, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima. 

Dr. Dosinda Alvite, Denison University Spanish department. My advisor with various contacts in Peru. 

Cristobal Hitler Rengifo Acho, Guide and local in Iquitos and the Amazon river basin. 

Maximo Brhañes, Guide and local of Laroas, Yauyos, Central Andes.



Risks and challenges

Our main challenge is currently narrowing down the thesis of our film. There are many different realms and directions that the film could head into, so ultimately our most difficult task will be to focus our research on specific images and specific people that represent the message of the film.

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    Receive live video updates, credits in the final film, and an invitation to the screening at Denison University.

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    Receive a handmade trinket from one of the indigenous people of Peru

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Funding period

- (28 days)