Bolivia’s film history begins in the 1920s. Yet the political and economical situation led to undeveloped industry. Production services in Bolivia have suffered from censorship or lack of funds. Nowadays, specialists struggle to recover some precious films from the past century. They must save this heritage for future generations.

Evolution Of The Film Industry & Production Services In Bolivia

Movie-making in Bolivia has focused a lot on documenting the Indigenous culture. Given the internal conflicts between this population and the Europeans, censorship was inevitable. So Bolivian cinematography has been mostly held back until the 1980s.

As in the rest of Latin America, daring filmmakers had to flee their country. Since their work opposed the obedience requested by the government, they had to go into exile. It has been a constant struggle to create films that have an impact on the audiences. That, of course, without being in any way perceived as offensive. Due to such circumstances, production services in Bolivia remained undeveloped for long.

Yet the Bolivian cinematography did not stagnate. It has actually come a long way, from the first screenings in people’s homes, at the end of the 19th century. Even modern films, with computer-generated imagery, have lots of stories to tell.

The 20th century began with a wave of documentary creation, like La Gloria de la Raza (1926). As for the silent movie era, only one production has survived. Wara Wara (1930) by José Velasco Maidana took more than a decade of restoration but now stands as a token of history.

Production services in Bolivia took a new turn after the mid-50s. Intending to define a national identity, filmmakers dreamt of authentic movies. New Bolivian Cinema focused on themes like underdevelopment and economic conflict. The Instituto Cinematográfico Boliviano (ICB) however was under the government’s control. So censorship complicated the distribution of productions deemed inappropriate.

The Struggle Of Heritage Preservation

Looking back, Bolivia’s film heritage can hardly compare with Mexico or Brazil. But several productions did leave a mark in history. Collective conscience values films like Vuelve Sebastiana (1953) or Ukamau (1966). La Nación Clandestina (1989) and Cuestion de Fe (1995) are other remarkable works. All these received international awards for authenticity and innovation.

Nowadays, production services in Bolivia are expanding their horizons. Jorge Sanjinés is one of the filmmakers dedicated to using cinema only as a means for telling the truth. The New Bolivian Cinema is, according to him, all about social transformation. And accessible digital formats allowed nurturing a stronger indigenous film community. Plus, organizations like CEFREC offer training in film production for these communities. So Ayamara, Guarani, Trinitario, and Quechua people now get a chance to share their stories.

Bolivia is on its way to recovery, but the preservation of the existing heritage is necessary. Dozens of film negatives found in a basement back in 1989 still await proper restoration. And unfortunately, there are no funds for that. It is uncertain what the future holds for these films. Hopefully, both new and old productions will make it to the big screen in the upcoming years.