A Modern Huacon dances the Huaconada de Mito in Mito, Peru on January 1, 2019. © J. Ashley Nixon
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The Mask and More is a short documentary film about the Huaconada de Mito, a Peruvian dance globally recognized by UNESCO in 2010 for its Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The film was produced as an entry to the 2019 My RØDE Reel Competition under the Documentary and Foreign Film categories (the film is in Spanish with English subtitles).
You can see the film here!
My RØDE Reel
Now in its sixth year, My RØDE Reel is the world’s largest short film competition, created by this well-respected microphone manufacturer to promote filmmaking across a wide range of categories. One of the important conditions for entries is to hold the length of all submitted films to no more than three minutes. In that sense, The Mask and More is a trailer of a longer documentary film that my film crew and I shot high up in the Andes (3,286 m) on location in the city of Mito in January 2019. That film (with the same name) further explores the people of Mito, their preparation for, and performance of the Huaconada dance and its social and cultural significance. The Mask and More is scheduled for release at the end of 2019.
A second requirement of the My RØDE Reel short film competition is to produce an accompanying Behind the Scenes (BTS) film that showcases not only how the film was created but also the use of RØDE microphones in the production. As an exclusive user of many of their products for sound in my film productions, this was well accommodated.
The film in brief
Huacones are wooden-masked men who dance around the main plaza of the small city of Mito during the first four days of January each year. Although its origins are hard to pinpoint, the dance is rooted in the pre-Hispanic culture of the Peruvian Andes. It is linked to the ancient mythology of the region that had priests, or Huacones, acting as messengers between the gods in the world above (called Hanan Pacha in Quechua) and the world populated by people (Kay Pacha). While no one knows the specifics of those communications, we can imagine that their themes almost certainly featured water, food, and the land: the provision of rainfall, and good crop fertility.
Spanish influences, that began to blend into the Huanca culture of Mito and the Mantaro Valley added further style to the dance and its music from the 16th century.
Old and Modern Huacones
The Old Huacones with their modest-looking cotton and woolen costume and shuffling steps are accompanied by Modern Huacones, colourfully dressed Miteños performing a more scripted choreography. Both types of Huacon are transformed into figures that demand respect when they put on their wooden masks: the older brethren in grotesque caricatures carved from alder wood, the younger-looking (who may be older men!) in varnished carvings with prominent noses that take their form from the Condor, the Andean bird that has mythical significance as an animal messenger from the gods. All of the masks are the creation of craftsmen in Mito such as Julio Landeo Álvarez who is featured in the film and BTS.
Behind the Scenes
The respect gained by the Huacones is matched by their authority, as demonstrated through the whips they wield as they dance and walk around the plaza by the church and municipal building. The traditional greeting of the Huacon is given with a “light touch” of the whip to your legs. To refuse is to be rude and it may produce a stronger offering ( I can be heard talking about this accepted greeting in the final scenes of the BTS). The thunderous crack of the whip formed a key sound to my short films-audio markers through the music of the La Huaconada de Mito, performed by Orquesta Folklórica Sinfonía Aquence under the direction of their leader, Jorge Chuquillanqui Inga playing tenor saxophone.
The modern-day importance of the Huaconada is articulated in the BTS by the Mayor of the City, Sr. Luis Emiliano Enriquez Bergna, who will have more to say about the cultural and sustainability values of the dance to the community in the longer film, Beyond the Mask.
Using a filming and production crew of five (60% female and 70% Peruvian), this short documentary was shot on location over a period of five days, including travel up through the Andes from Lima. Film equipment included two Canon cameras and lenses (16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm), two Røde microphones (Rode VideoMic Pro+ and VideoMicGo), and portable Litra LED lighting. The film was edited using Adobe Premiere Pro.
Jennifer A. Nixon: Photography, Production Assistant
Carla Diaz Silva: Production Assistant, Translation, Interviews
Daniel Gómez: Production Assistant, Logistics, Lighting, BTS Photography
Yamiley Verastegui Ludeña: Interview Commentary (BTS)
Maria Carmen Nixon: Producer, Translator
J. Ashley Nixon: Photography, Editor, Director
Appreciation is given to the dancers, musicians and members of the community of Mito, Peru for their cooperation, hospitality and assistance with the production of this film, especially to: Sr. Luis Emiliano Enriquez Bergna, Julio Landeo Álvarez, Medardo Verastegui Inga, Yamiley Verastegui Ludeña, and Dulio Gomez Acosta.
See the film The Mask and More
You can see the film The Mask and More and the BTS on the My RØDE Reel website here. Please add a vote if you like them!
More photography, films, and books on Peru
Please visit J. Ashley Nixon Communications for more photography, books and films on Peru.
For more on some of the people featured in this film, please click here.
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Fascinating history of the Huanca people combined well with the colour and sounds of this ancient dance.
I liked the contrast of the little boy with the scary images of the masks and whips.
Well done team Nixon and good luck.
Thank you, Sally. We were so happy to capture that event in the film. It helped us to show one of the reasons that UNESCO recognized the Huaconada for its Intangible Cultural Heritage (in 2010), which is that the dance is continually adapting and is transmitted from generation to generation. In other words, it demonstrates the “living culture” of their performance.
This is an amazing piece of article. It’s nicely written and explained very well. We have bookmarked your site now and will frequently read your blog posts.
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