The Los Angeles Times has just published a review of “Sin Mapa” (Without a Map) a new documentary about Puerto Rican hip hop duo Calle 13, which just this week swept the Latin Grammy Awards, winning all five of the awards for which it had been nominated. Here are some excerpts, with the link to the entire article below.
In the opening minutes of “Sin Mapa,” the new documentary about Calle 13, the camera pans across a small group of curanderos (shamans) from Amantani, a tiny island in the middle of Peru’s Lake Titicaca, who are gathered for a special ceremony. They brandish coca leaves, kantuta (“flowers of the earth”) and a llama fetus adorned in the colors of the Peruvian flag. Their guest of honor is Calle 13′s MC Rene Perez, a.k.a. Residente, come to escape the shallow trappings of overnight success.
The shamans say their prayers to the Three Worlds of the Andes; Perez, 31, invokes the name of his girlfriend, 2001 Miss Universe beauty queen and off-Broadway actress Denise Quinones; and the fires begin to burn into the night. “In that moment, my mind was filled with promise,” Perez’s voice-over intones. “With the energy of the fire and the power of music, I could continue to communicate with the people.”
The scene recalls director Walter Salles’ 2004 film “The Motorcycle Diaries,” about the young Che Guevara’s search for the real soul of Latin America — except this time the protagonist is a wisecracking, tattoo-laden Puerto Rican rapper with a two-person video crew.
“Sin Mapa” (“Without a Map”) takes its name from a Calle 13 paean to Latin American immigrants called “Pa’l Norte” (“To the North”); the song fades constantly in and out during the documentary, which premiered July 29 at the New York International Latino Film Festival and was just released on DVD. Juxtaposing encounters with indigenous people from Peru, Venezuela and Colombia and scenes from the band’s touring life, the film details Perez’s ambivalence about fame and fortune and shows him fulfilling his desire to connect to a Latin America that is almost never seen.
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The film was directed by Colombian national Marc de Beaufort, who in 2004 had traveled around South America with fellow Colombian cinematographer Alexandra Posada on a videotaped expedition to study long-forgotten routes of waterways that connected parts of Peru, Venezuela and Colombia.
“We were originally thinking of doing a kind of reality show thing with me working at a factory job somewhere in South America,” said Perez. “The idea kept changing and Marc knew a lot, so we decided to do this trip. It was a collaboration that flowed very naturally.”
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