More than any discernible narrative arc, it’s the “ruta de la sal” (salt route) wending through remote Andean habitations that shapes “Pachamama.” Named after the Quecha earth goddess, the pic portrays a vanishing way of life yet emerges as a delightful celebration of it. Nippon-born, U.S.-based director Toshifumi Matsushita’s feature debut merges documentary know-how with a charmingly loose road odyssey utilizing nonpro actors. Fests should come running, with some DVD placements possible.
Working to the cheerful last, Grandma drops dead, and Grandpa is feeling his age. So for the first time, 13-year-old Kunturi (Christian Huaygua) gets to accompany dad Sauci (Francisco Gutierrez) on his annual three-month trek delivering slabs from their vast salt-lake home terrain to distant mountain folk. Eschewing trucks and cold cash, they do it the old way, via llama caravan, bartering for goods in exchange. En route, they discover a playmate’s father died in a mine accident; witness a thief’s banishment from his village; experience Macha’s raucous Tinku Festival; and meet a girl who someday might be Kunturi’s bride. Unpretentious and warm, “Pachamama’s” non-pro actors prove as winning as its plentiful wildlife and scenery.