Building a Wolfpack on-screen and off-screen

Building a Wolfpack on-screen and off-screen

“What is really remarkable about Los Lobos is that it manages to maintain a difficult topic in a lighthearted way. The whole film is full of symbolism and silence, and they speak much louder than thousand words”.

Carlos Marroquín, Cinemaissí's Artistic Director
Los Lobos_DP-Octavio_Arauz_05-LowRes (1)

Interview with Samuel Kishi, director, and Martha Reyes, leading actress, from the film Los Lobos.

Roots of the wolfpack

The film Los Lobos is a semi-autobiographical film based on Samuel Kishi’s childhood
memories. When Kishi was a child, they moved to Santana California from Mexico
trying to get a better life.

In the beginning of the writing process Los Lobos, Kishi based the story in one particular memory about him, his mother and his little brother. His mother rented an apartment in a bad neighborhood and she had to leave them alone in the apartment to get a job and to go to work. However, she recorded English lessons, stories and rules of the house in a little cassette recorder for her children to listen to while she was away. “If you miss me, please, press play so you can hear me” she used to say. Kishi and his brother started to build an imaginary world with their mom’s recorder. This was a little scene Kishi wanted to show in his film.

During the investigation process before filming, Kishi went back to Santana California
with his family and they started to investigate together and with the local community
as well. What he found out was that the story of his family was the story of a lot of migrants.
However, Kishi says he did not want to only talk about immigration, for him it was important that Los Lobos would also be a coming-of-age film. Max, the older brother, starts to grow up as the story of the wolfpack goes on. He begins to understand the reasons of his mother and realizes who his father was. It is these actions that force Max to grow up. Kishi’s intention with the film and the storyline was to make the story universal.
What is really remarkable about Los Lobos is that it manages to maintain a difficult topic in a lighthearted way. The whole film is full of symbolism and silence, and they speak  much louder than  thousand  words.” Carlos Marroquín, Artistic  Director of Cinemaissí

Getting real with the characters

Martha Reyes was first invited to make a workshop for the kids who wanted to be casted in the film.  When Reyes and Kishi first started to talk about the film, Kishi said he would not cast her in the role of the mother because Reyes was so young. During the workshop Reyes asked Kishi to make a demo reel for her, a visual curriculum of her previous roles. When he was editing it, he saw her talent and said that she should be the mother.

Shortly after that Reyes started to train for the role. When she read the part for the first time, she realized that the mother was a cliché. The mother seemed too perfect. “I told Samuel, we need to do a real character, a real mom with real problems aboutbeing alone with her kids in a new country” Reyes sums it up.

In order to get closer to the character, they interviewed Kishi’s mother. During the writing process the focus was on the kids but when they interviewed Kishi’s mother the focus really shifted towards Reyes’ character as well. Kishi’s mother unfolded her memories of the past and told them her reflections about her experience as a migrant mom. She used to play tricks on Kishi and his brother with stories and games so they wouldn’t have to face the hard reality. “We did miss our mom when she was at work, but my mom’s story wasn’t equivalent to ours because  she was sensitive and intelligent in protecting us” Samuel explains.

Something everyone writing the film agreed on, that had to be put to the storyline was: what do moms do when we don’t watch? In the film sometimes Lucia, the mother, also wants to play and be a child. It is possible to the children to escape the reality through the games but the mother can not.

Finding Max and Leo

The team did a lot of casting with children in the area of Calisco and in Mexico City. Finally, six kids were chosen for a workshop, three kids trained for the role of each brother. For the next two months the kids were taught e.g. improvisation and camera rules, and by the end of this workshop they chose the two kids who would play the brothers in the film. After this, the cast moved on to another workshop with a famous acting coach,  Fatima Toledo. Unfortunately, during this time the child who was supposed to play the little brother didn’t want to continue with the project. Kishi says that the first rule working with actors is that everyone must be honest, and so the child left the project but now they were left without an actor for the role of the little brother.

Leo, the little brother we now see in the film, did send a casting video but everyone taught he was too young – he looked so small, almost like a baby. Despite being rejected after the first try, Leo was sometimes around in the rehearsals with his mother. One day Reyes was playing with Leo and found out that he wasn’t a baby, he was actually already five-years-old. When the role for the little brother became open, they offered the role to Leo who gladly accepted it. It didn’t take long when everyone realized that it should have been Leo all the time. “The first rehearsal Leo attended was magical”, as Kishi and Reyes put it, “all the lines and the jokes, the love between the characters, it all felt real.”

Next step in the process was that Reyes, Max and Leo moved in to live together. They did things like any normal family would do – they went to buy groceries, paid their rent and played together. Kishi and Reyes want to give a huge thanks to the parents of Max and Leo for trusting them with this project. “They are part of the wolfpack” Kishi says.

Carlos Marroquín, artistic director of Cinemaissí
Ella Korhonen, Press Assistant of Cienmaissí


You can watch the film online throughout the festival 21.-25.10.2020


Ancestors Practices and Climate Change: Interview with Director

Ancestors Practices and Climate Change: Interview with Director

“After seeing the reality that a lot of indigenous communities live, it pushed us to have a compromise to produce this type of social cinema, where the community can see themselves and feel proud of wearing their traditional outfits and hear their language on a big screen”.

Diego Sarmiento, Director, 'Las Sembradoras de Vida' (Peru, 2019)

“Everything you ask her, she will give to you”.

– Eliana García

It is often heard that women are the most affected by the impact of climate change globally. Do you know the reason why this statement is given? According to statistics provided by the international organizations, 80% of the people who are displaced or affected by this natural phenomenon are women who are caregivers and food providers. 

The film Mothers of the Land directed by Diego and Alvaro Sarmiento, who are two brothers from HDPeru production, was released in 2019, in Peru. It develops the story of five women farmers from the Andes who fight to conserve their sowing affected by extreme climate changes by using traditional and modern methods. 

Both filmmakers from Quechua descent studied Media Production and Documentary Filmmaking. Thirteen years ago, they started producing after visiting their parents’ home located  in the center of Peru, where they realized that their roots were being threatened by transnational companies (mining) which was affecting the society, its economy, and environment.

HDPeru aims to produce topics about native people’s rights and the preservation of the environment in the Andes and Amazon in Peru.

With the help of technology, I was able to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and interview Diego. He was very relaxed, confident, and proudly talking about their work. 

“After seeing the reality that a lot of indigenous communities live, it pushed us to have a compromise to produce this type of  social cinema, where the  community can see themselves and feel proud of wearing their traditional outfits and hear their language on a big screen”. 

Actually, the Quechua language is being revalued in the country. At the university of Cusco it’s a mandatory course. “I think this is good since there is still a lot of discrimination that needs to be stopped” said, Diego. 

Mothers of the Land, which has a duration of 74 minutes, is their second feature production. It has been presented in several countries as well as at the  69 Berlin Film Festival. In addition, it also has won awards such as Best Documentary in the 25 Dreamspeakers Indigenous Film Festival in Canada, 2019. The film has been selected for Cinemaissí Latin American Film Festival in Finland.

Beside being presented at several film festivals, HDPeru’s goal is to distribute their documentaries in the communities, at schools, universities and others. It is giving back something to the community. 

During my conversation with Diego, he mentioned that the production of the documentary took four years since it was necessary to film from the sowing to the harvesting in separate parts. He also expressed that choosing the protagonist occurred two ways: knowing them from previous filming, for example, Sonia; or with the help of organizations that work with these women, for instance, the Potatoes Park.

The five protagonists Braulia Puma, Brizaida Sicus, Eliana García, Justa Quispe, and Sonia Mamani are from different areas. As a matter of fact, what they have in common are: 

-Believe that the Mother Land is woman; therefore, they practice rituals to give her thanks.

-Committed as hard-working who go daily to the field to check their sowing and apply their ancestral knowledge to combat plagues and extreme change of weather. For example, Brizaida’s potato plants have worms, so she applies ashes to combat them. 

Sonia mentioned that the lunar timing is not anymore precise like before. She remembered that her grandmother said: “when a lot of fishes appeared, it meant that  there would be a good harvest, and if there weren’t fishe it meant that a famine would come, but now you can’t know because there are never any fishes”.

Eliana who is an anthropologist combines her studies and her ancestral knowledge to guarantee a good corn harvest. She is devoted to collecting different types of seed because she likes to experiment even though it is a long process. The variety of corn also helps to have less plagues. 

The intertwined color of the women’s clothes, hat, and cloth they used as bags, plus the amazing scene of landscape, mountains, lakes, and valley mixed with the traditional music, make the movie flow smoothly. 

“We need to revalue the agriculture works, so if you have the opportunity to buy direct from the farmers do it. We are visitors of the land, not its owner”, manifested Diego. 

Shirlene Green Newball, Journalist-Producer, writer of Women Wheel blog.


Cinemaissí is committed to the true representation of indigenous communities, through indigenous-made film. You can watch the film throughout the festival 21.-25.10.2020


Las Sembradoras de Vida

Las Sembradoras de Vida

‘Mothers of the Land’
Country: Peru
Year: 2019
Directors: Diego y Alvaro Sarmiento
Duration: 74min
Language: Español, Quechua
Subtitles: English
Genre: documentary
Age limit: 12


Watch anytime during the festival in FesthomeTV



Mothers of the Land accompanies five women from the Andean highlands in their daily struggle to maintain a traditional and organic way of working the land. In the context of an ever-growing industrialization of agriculture and climate change, it is women who, connected to earth through bounds of sisterhood, take on the role of protectors and pass down the teachings to the next generation.

Mothers of the Land premiered at the 69 Berlin Film Festival and was produced by HDPERU: an indigenous film collective, focused on the defense of native peoples’ rights and environmental conservation in the Andes and the Amazon of Peru.

Mothers of the Land seuraa viittä naista ja heidän päivittäistä selviytymistaisteluaan Andien ylängöillä. Maatalouden kasvavan teollistumisen sekä ilmastonmuutoksen paineessa naiset – joilla on sekä taloudellinen että henkinen side viljelemäänsä maahan – pyrkivät ylläpitämään perinteisiä työskentelytapojaan sekä välittämään oppinsa seuraaville sukupolville.

Mothers of the Land sai ensi-iltansa 69. Berlin Film Festivaaleilla, ja sen on tuottanut HDPERU, alkuperäiskansojen oikeuksien puolustamiseen ja ympäristönsuojeluun Perun Andeilla ja Amazonilla keskittynyt elokuvakollektiivi.

Sembradoras de Vida sigue a cinco mujeres del altiplano andino en su lucha diaria por mantener una forma tradicional y orgánica de cultivar la tierra. Con una creciente industrialización de la agricultura y el cambio climático, son estas mujeres quienes, conectadas a la tierra a través de los enlaces de la hermandad, tienen que asumir el papel de protectoras y pasar sus enseñanzas a la próxima generación.

Sembradoras de Vida se estrenó en el 69.° Festival de Cine de Berlín y fue producida por HDPERU, un colectivo de cine indígena enfocado en la defensa de los derechos de los pueblos nativos y en la conservación del medio ambiente en los Andes y en la Amazonía del Perú.

Mothers of the Land (‘As Semeadoras da Vida’) acompanha cinco mulheres dos altiplanos andinos na sua luta diária de manter a maneira tradicional e orgânica de trabalhar a terra. No contexto da crescente industrialização da agricultura e do câmbio climático, são as mulheres conectadas à terra por laços de irmandade que assumem o papel de protetoras e passam os ensinos à próxima geração.

Mothers of the Land estreou no 69 Berlin Film Festival e foi produzido por HDPERU, um coletivo de filme indígena, enfocado na defensa dos direitos de povos nativos e na proteção ambiental nos Andes e na Amazônia peruana.


You will find the film here on the festival week 21-25.10.2020.

Sembadoras de Vida is available all of the festival week.