One’s affection for Ellen Perry’s The Fall of Fujimori, a detailed account of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori’s rise to and fall from power, may depend on whether it came to you before or after Pamela Yates’s State of Fear. Perry’s documentary wasn’t planned as a companion piece to Yates’s shrewd surveillance of Peru’s political climate these last 20 years, but because New York City’s Film Forum is playing both films back to back, it may be difficult to sever the two on the critic’s page. Fall of Fujimori appears to promise an alternate view of Peru’s still-fresh war on terror by allowing Fujimori himself to ruminate on the successes and deviances of his de facto political regime (Perry was granted unprecedented interview time with the man in early 2004); in truth, it covers much of the same terrain as Yates’s film, only with considerably less insight. Perry, who grafts her one-on-one interviews with Fujimori around stunning archival news footage, presents a broad-brush perspective of the man and his parents’ adopted Peru; unlike Yates, who isn’t afraid to get dirty in tracing the intricate cause-and-effect of Abimael Guzmán and Fujimori’s respective guerilla tactics, Perry’s approach feels hands-off. The filmmaker seems to have put too much faith in her ability to chip away at Fujimori’s pride—unable to, she turns her camera to other matters and, not only does her film lose focus, but it courts condescension. In the film’s juiciest bits, Fujimori’s wife emerges a self-serving mother and public figure, but Fujimori remains a cipher. Given the coverage of Fujimori—who is Peruvian but of Japanese descent—walking and dining in Japan, footage of reverential Peruvian masses chanting “Chino” in public, and one interviewee’s comparison of the president to a samurai when remembering how the man entered the Japanese embassy in Lima after the MRTA-commanded hostage scandal came to a bloody end, it’s as if Perry, unable to explain if Fujimori really believes he’s innocent of wrongdoing or is putting on a spectacular act, is writing off the man’s reticence as a symptom of his Asian heritage. Like Fujimori’s easily-disproved claims of innocence, the film’s unconscious but perplexing stance becomes a cop-out.
- Stardust Pictures
- 83 min
- Ellen Perry
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