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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pachamama is an animated feature about an ancient Inca civilization fighting the Spanish conquistadors who invaded and vandalized their land in the pursuit of gold. Animal sacrifice, ancestor worship, shamans, animal- and other nature-based gods, and adherence to traditional habits and beliefs are at the heart of the film, which highlights the coming of age of a young boy who wants shaman powers but is still too immature and unwilling to make sacrifices for his people. Scary moments involve earthquakes, shootings, fire, and escape from conquistadors and the wrath of gods. A cave full of skeletons scares a boy. A shaman is poised to slaughter a llama with a knife but stops.
What's the story?
PACHAMAMA is set in 15th century South America, when Inca civilization was at its most advanced, with whimsical animation depicting the Andes mountains and starry skies as magical places ruled by nature gods. Pachamama is one such god who rules the tiny village where Tepulpai (Adama Moussamih) and his friend Naira (Charli Birdgenau) are both about to ascend to the honored title of Great One, which seems to be their passage into adulthood. This requires that they each sacrifice to Pachamama something they hold precious as part of a village ritual. Naira, calm and wise beyond her years, offers her beloved llama. The shaman is poised to slaughter the llama with a knife, but is halted by the gods. Tepulpai holds back his most precious possession, a condor feather he plucked from The Great Condor, a local god, and is refused elevation to Great One status. When tax collectors steal the village's most prized and sacred gold artifact to give to the Inca god back in the nearby big city, Tepulpai goes after them to recover their property. Naira and her llama join him to help, and together they bravely endure terrors of the journey, including encounters with "men of metal," armor-clad Spanish soldiers, wielding guns, explosives, and knives in their quest to plunder the native people and steal their gold.
Is it any good?
This animated film has some valuable lessons to offer. Pachamama, which means "mother earth" in an Inca language, illustrates not only the sophistication of ancient civilizations and their achievements -- cities, roads, water systems, textiles, governments -- but also their weaknesses, including, in this case, a vain and out-of-touch leader. Values are also emphasized. Although the area's plentiful gold is used to fashion artifacts of worship, villagers treat seeds for quinoa, potatoes, and corn as far more valuable and worthy of protection and respect.
However, in the film's effort to emphasize respect for the environment, it mixes the message with its deference to magic and spirits, neither of which are likely to solve the earth's current environmental problems. Some viewers may wonder why Naira is less celebrated by this movie than Tepulpai, the male character, who's clearly the lead here, even though they seem equally brave and dedicated to saving their village.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that there's no shortcut to maturity. Does Pachamama indicate that sometimes it's necessary to face real obstacles in order to achieve wisdom? What are some examples?
How does the movie show that Tepulpai is immature at the start of the action?
When is it important to follow community rules, and when do you think breaking some rules for the community good might be best?
How could you learn more about the Inca people and their civilization?
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2019
- Cast: Adam Moussamih, Charli Birdgenau, Sonja Ball
- Director: Juan Antin
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Character strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 72 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for some thematic elements and action/peril.
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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