The patriarch of the Arisapana family, Victoriano swells with pride when describing his role as Bridge Master. He smiles through broken teeth, stained by coca leaves, and tells the story of his ancestors using the bridge to escape from the Spanish conquistadors. His body bears the marks of rough living in a hard place, but he doesn’t begrudge the bridge the toll it’s taken on him. Victoriano knows the Apu, the mountain spirit of the bridge, watches over those who honor it, protects those who follow the traditions. He raised his children to pay tribute to the Q’eswachaka Apu, though his sons have long since followed the bright lights of possibility to the big city. But he clings to his belief that this land has a hold on them, and that no matter where they go, his children will return to him and to their bridge.
Victoriano’s eldest can pull his weight on the farm, but his heart is with his music. Unlike his father, Vidal not only finished high school, but continued studying, moving to Lima to take additional classes, find work and play with his band. His life is full and his art takes him around the country performing raucous Quechua dance music to packed out crowds of his fellow Andean wanderers. He sends money home and returns when he can, to give his father a hand with the crops and tease his little sister, but for Vidal, the village doesn’t have enough to offer.
Under her downturned dark eyes and her meek exterior, Victoriano’s teenage daughter has a fiery nature. When Ruth Laurita was young, her mother and stepfather sent her to the city to work in a juice shop. After two years of verbal and physical abuse, the resourceful 12-year-old hopped a bus back to her remote village and moved in with her father. Victoriano was overjoyed and immediately enrolled her in school, where she has been studying hard to make up for lost time. She has built a life here, yet her fierce spirit bristles at the limitations that surround her. Ruth Laurita knows that in spite of being the only one of his children to stay by Victoriano’s side, the mountain spirits would never allow a woman to weave the bridge. This simple farm has been a haven for Ruth Laurita the last few years, but can it offer her a future?
Victorianos’ second son had no idea that the bridge weaver down the mountain was his father until he graduated from high school. On the outside, Yuri is a tough ladies’ man, working hard to make it big in the city. But underneath he struggles with a profound insecurity in a strained relationship with a father he never knew as a child. In spite of the thinly veiled bitterness Yuri feels for him, Victoriano claims Yuri, the “most macho” of his boys, should be the one to follow him as Bridge Master.
Elisa is a Peruvian-American independent filmmaker who was raised in Peru. She studied film in Vancouver, B.C. where she co-founded Noonday Films. Her company has produced award-winning documentaries about guerrilla gardening in Vancouver, B.C., children with HIV/AIDS in Honduras (Crystal Heart Award, Heartland Film Festival), and elderly activists in the United States (DER Award, Hot Docs Festival).
The Bridge Master’s Daughter was born out of Elisa’s deep love of Peru and her passion for the stories of her people. As a Peruvian women Elisa has been allowed access to a significant aspect of Andean culture, which has been reflected in the intimacy of the shooting for this film.
In 2014, Elisa produced a video on the Qeswachaka bridge for the Smithsonian’s exhibition, “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire.” Her bridge footage has been broadcast on Discovery Science and TVPERU.
Matthew studied film in Vancouver, BC and is now based in Columbus, OH. His company Noonday Films has been filming and producing documentaries and commercial video for 8 years.
The documentary he produced, directed and edited, MONTAÑA DE LUZ (a film about a home in Honduras for children with HIV/AIDS) won the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival and is currently being distributed by Icarus Films. His short documentary OLD RADICALS premiered at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto and won the DER Award in the International Documentary Challenge. It was also broadcast on the Documentary Challenge.
Matthew has been working on The Bridge Master’s Daughter for the last three years with his partner and co-director, Elisa Stone Leahy.