Sepa, Nuestro Señor de los milagros (Sepa: Our Lord of Miracles). 1987. Switzerland/Peru. Directed by Walter Saxer. Narration written by Saxer, Mario Vargas Llosa. 4K restoration by Cinémathèque suisse and Cineteca di Bologna in collaboration with Ministerio de Cultura del Peru at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, from the 16mm original negative camera and sound held at Yacumama Films. Courtesy Yacumama Films and Dekanalog. In Spanish; English subtitles. 79 min.
Having languished in a closet for more than 30 years, this newly rediscovered film is a unique documentary record of a bold and troubling experiment in criminal justice. A collaboration in 1987 between Walter Saxer, the producer of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, and the Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, Sepa, Nuestra Señor de los milagros observes an open-air penal colony of the same name, created in 1951 by the Peruvian government in the Amazonian jungle. Tasked with growing crops on these colonized lands, the inmates were permitted to roam freely, commune with their families, and dance and cook together, yet they soon found themselves in despair, abandoned and forgotten by their country and the world at large.