Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This Peruvian film tells the story of Madeinusa (Magaly Solier), a naive teenager in a provincial village, who is even unaware of what her name means. She lives with her sister Chale (Yiliana Chong) and father Don Cayo (Juan Ubaldo Huamán), the town mayor, who drinks and dreams of incest.

Once a year, from Good Friday to Easter Sunday - between Christ's death and resurrection - sin ceases to exist for the community and the village gives way to a festival of debauchery. They celebrate the festival of the "Little Virgins", dressing the young girls up to the nines and parading them in a manner that you suspect is going to descend into something more carnal than Christian.

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On the eve of these Hieronymous Bosch-like festivities an outsider from Lima (Carlos Juan de la Torre) turns up in the village. He is met with hostility by the locals, who fear he will spoil their fun with his city sensibilities. Madeinusa, however, sees a route out of her current life, triggering a series of events, which might just prove fatal.

Claudia Llosa's film is very accomplished for a debut feature. She cleverly spins this tale of the old world on a collision course with the new, while maintaining a depth and breadth to the characters. By keeping the core cast small - the two sisters, dad and the incomer - there is room for attention to detail. She perfectly captures the contrast of the opulent presents given to Christ for Easter with the poverty of the village and makes a statement about changes to the world order without being condescending to a culture that is fast ebbing away.

Solier is excellent as the unworldly Madeinusa, while Chong puts in an equally commendable performance as her envious sister, desperate to trip her up. Mention must also be made of the excellent score by Selma Mutal, which provides the perfect counterpoint to the action.

This is a coming of age drama with a novel twist, which offers an insight into a world of tradition rarely considered by filmmakers.

Reviewed on: 18 Mar 2006
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The festival of the Little Virgins in a Peruvian village offers one teenager an escape route.
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Chris ****

Director: Claudia Llosa

Writer: Claudia Llosa

Starring: Magaly Solier, Carlos Juan de la Torre, Yiliana Chong, Juan Ubaldo Huaman

Year: 2005

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Peru/Spain

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