Friday, June 27, 2008

On the film

"fast moving, riveting...maintains its sense of urgency from start to finish.”
-- Ernest Hardy, LA Weekly

"A moving film that challenges our notions of art and expression..."
--Aura Bogoda, KPFK Radio

" important, ultimately moving film that gets at the very heart of what it means to be an artist..."
--Daniel Alarcón, author, Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight

"Against the Grain lets artists in their own words and images create light where there was only the gray of deceit and corruption before.”
--Russell C. Leong, UCLA Amerasia Journal

"Kaneko's film explores these broad and daunting questions in a series of portraits that are at once probing, illuminating, and ultimately, humanizing.”
--Jonathan Ritter, Assistant Professor, UC Riverside

Monday, March 10, 2008


In 1989, Alfredo Márquez used an image of Mao in an artwork. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. For every artist, the need to create and be heard is as basic as food and shelter. But what happens when you live in a country where the state clamps down on free thinkers, forcing artists to censure themselves? Four Peruvian visual artists, including Márquez, defy this tyranny through their work and ignite change, challenging ordinary people to speak out. These struggles and commitments raise the question: Is freedom of expression a right or a privilege?

Spanning two decades of corrupt governments and inept leaders, this film tells the story of four inspiring artists: Claudio Jiménez Quispe flees his home in Ayacucho because of insurgency with the Shining Path, a Maoist rebel group. He chronicles this violence in his retablos, traditional wooden display boxes. Alfredo Márquez, active in the 1980s underground punk scene, produces bold, political images despite four years of unjust imprisonment. With the downfall of former president Alberto Fujimori, critics targeted Japanese Peruvians like Eduardo Tokeshi, yet he reaffirms his identity through a series of red and white Peruvian flags. Natalia Iguíñiz provokes the Catholic Church and the socially conservative middle class with controversial images that challenge gender and class. Each artist teaches us what it means to persevere and make art in a country like Perú.

Highlighting amazing contemporary Peruvian artwork, this film combines gritty Super 8 with raw verité footage. It also features music by iconic Peruvian bands, Leusemia and Uchpa, and Los Angeles indie rockers, Pilar Díaz and David Green, of los abandoned.

CONTRACORRIENTE: Guía de supervivencia para artistas en el Perú

En 1989, Alfredo Márquez utilizó una imagen de Mao en una de sus obras. Fue sentenciado a 20 años de prisión. Para cualquier artista, la necesidad de crear y ser escuchado es una necesidad tan básica como tener techo y comida. Pero qué pasa cuando vives en un país donde el estado usa su maquinaria para oprimir a pensadores libres, forzándolos a autocensurarse. Cuatro artistas visuales peruanos, incluyendo Alfredo, desafían esta tiranía a través de su obra y encienden cambio, retando a que gente común exprese su opinión. Estas luchas y compromisos formulan la pregunta: la libertad de expresión es un derecho o un privilegio?

A través de dos décadas de goviernos corruptos y líderes ineptos, esta película cuenta la historia de cuatro artistas inspiradores: Claudio Jiménez Quispe se escapa de su pueblo en Ayacucho por la insurgencia del grupo maoísta Sendero Luminoso. Hace una crónica de esta violencia con sus retablos, cajas de madera tradicionales con alguna escena popular. Alfredo Márquez, un miembro de la escena subterránea de los 80s, produce imágenes politicas desafiantes a pesar de cuatro años de prisión injusta. Con la caída del ex-presidente Alberto Fujimori, la gente criticaba a peruano-japoneses como Eduardo Tokeshi, aún así él reafirma su identidad a través de una serie de banderas peruanas. Natalia Iguíñiz provoca a la Iglesa Católica y a la socialmente conservadora clase media al mostrar imágenes controversiales que cuestionan género y clase. Cada artista nos enseña lo que significa preservar y hacer arte en un país como el Perú.

Resaltando obras de arte contemporáneas peruanas, esta película combina material graneado Super 8 con el estilo verité. Presenta música de las icónicas bandas Leusemia y Uchpa, y nuevos trabajos de los roqueros "indie", Pilar Díaz y David Green, de los abandoned.

Friday, February 15, 2008


“Ann Kaneko's 'Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú' helps to illuminate the violent political and social history of the past 30 years of Peru. This stunning documentary film is an unconventional visual retablo (traditional Catholic wooden altar) in itself. Kaneko, one of the most talented and intrepid documentary activists in the U.S., features Peruvian artists who resist censorship and endure imprisonment to tell the hidden stories of the Peruvian people. Peru's major political regimes are critically covered here: from Fujimori, Toledo, and the current Garcia. National identity, gender, and the nuances of class conflict: all in 64 packed minutes.

“A must film for those who study the Americas--and, for those interested in expanding their Asian American politics, culture, and race and ethnic relations curricula.

“Against the Grain lets artists in their own words and images create light where there was only the gray of deceit and corruption before.”

Russell C. Leong
Editor, UCLA Amerasia Journal

“'Against The Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú' is an inspiring and thoughtful documentary about four young and provocative artists living in contemporary Lima, Perú. Director Ann Kaneko shows the artists as complex human beings who have contributed in diverse ways to fostering a democratic practice during and after Fujimori’s rule since the 1990s.

“The filmmaker’s own presence as a Japanese-American woman making a documentary on these artists during the post-Fujimori years adds yet another layer of complexity, as she interacts with urban society and the ethnically and socially diverse artists she chose to present in this outstanding documentary. The result is a wonderful and courageous enactment of democratic practice, showcasing a polyphony of voices and images of great beauty. Underlining these images is a soundtrack recorded by contemporary Peruvian musicians. I highly recommend this intelligent film to anyone interested in contemporary Perú or in the power of art to foster a democratic society.”

Freya Schiwy
Assistant Professor, Latin American Media and Cultural Studies
University of California, Riverside

“'Against The Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú' is a powerful film about Perú, about art, and about extraordinary acts of courage and creativity. While the film offers a compelling and compassionate account of several artists' lives in a troubling era of recent Peruvian history, it also raises questions that resonate far beyond that context. How do artists cope with a political environment marked by fear and silencing? What is the nature of censorship? What contributions can art make to a society's public debates over politics and culture? Kaneko's film explores these broad and daunting questions in a series of portraits that are at once probing, illuminating, and ultimately, humanizing.”

Jonathan Ritter
Assistant Professor, Ethnomusicology
University of California, Riverside


Natalia Iguiñiz teaches painting at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and received her Bachelor’s degree from there as well. Her paintings and photographs have exhibited throughout Peru. She also works as a graphic designer for many non-profit organizations in Lima. She has exhibited in Spain and the United States.

Claudio Jiménez Quispe is a "retablista" (an artist who makes traditional wooden display boxes which depict Catholic scenes) from Ayacucho. He was born in the village of Alcamenca, which means “community working in stony earth” in Quechua. He is the son of the noted Ayacuchan retablista, Florentino Jiménez Toma and has exhibited widely in Peru and in the United States. At the age of 15, he won two national competitions in folk art.

Alfredo Márquez studied architecture and urbanism at the University of Ricardo Palma in Lima. He has been an active member of several Lima-based art collectives, such as Bestiarios/Bestias (1984-87), Taller NN (1988-91) Made in Peru (1992-94) and Perufabrica (1999-2003), mixing desi gn, drawing, photocopy, silk screening and painting. He has exhibited throughout South America and has participated in the Havana, Lima and Cuenca Biennials.

Eduardo Tokeshi studied architecture and urbanism at the Federico Villareal National University and art at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, where he also taught art history. He has exhibited widely in Europe, Japan and the United States and has collaborated with dancer Dana Tai Soon Burgess. His illustrations and graphic design work also frequently appear in the Peruvian cultural and literary magazine, Etiqueta Negra.