“Familia” is a poignant, universally accessible documentary about a poverty-stricken Peruvian family, sensitively observing the matriarch’s decision to work as a hotel maid in Spain and the impact of that choice on her and her extended clan. Clearly the result of a long and respectful association with the subjects (Swedish producer/co-director Mikael Wistrom first met the family in 1974 and has helmed two previous films about them), this winner of the Karlovy Vary docu prize is a perfect fit for fests and specialty webs.
Now in their mid-50s with four offspring, Daniel and Natividad Barrientos are only slightly better off than when they lived in a straw hut by a garbage dump and worked as trash pickers. Cutting between Nati’s lonely life in Spain and the problems facing those left behind, pic features candid voiceover commentary from the couple as well as troubled oldest son Dani and second daughter Judith, who tries to fill her mother’s role of caring and serving but feels inadequate and unappreciated. As cameraman, co-helmer Alberto Herskovits favors extreme closeups that feel intimate rather than intrusive; pic incorporates black-and-white footage and photos Wistrom shot years before.