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A tale of two cultures
Film student Josh Hyde explores an American company's takeover of a Peruvian factory

Feb. 15, 2006
By Katie Brandt

When Josh Hyde thinks back on his first of three trips to Peru, he recalls the struggle he saw in the country's streets. Grade-school children pulled at tourists' sleeves, begging them to buy a piece of candy or a fresh flower so the children could bring home money on which their families relied. This fight for just a few Soles, the Peruvian currency, has a long history in this culturally rich but economically deprived Andean country.

Josh HydeHyde, a graduate student in film at Ohio University, was inspired by the country's plight and used it to develop a script for his graduate film project. "There was this solidarity in poverty, and I fell in love with that," he says.

That passion will lead him to Berlin this month to screen his 14-minute short film "Chicle." The film was accepted into Berlinale - Berlin's International Film Festival, which is one of the top festivals in the world - "based on its integrity," Hyde says.

Over a 10-month span, Hyde wrote a feature-length script, "Chicle (Gum)," based on what he saw in Peru when he was first there filming a documentary, "Despacho," which dealt with the fusion of Inca shamanistic techniques and western medicine. In this feature-length version of "Chicle," he tells the story of Pablo - the chubby cheeked, 10-year-old main character - who wanders the streets begging tourists for spare change in exchange for his wares. When an American businessman comes to the local gum factory to finalize a takeover deal, Pablo's father and brother lose their jobs. Pablo meets the American man's daughter, who is lost and scared in the overwhelming foreign city.

Through the children's eyes, Hyde shows the strains globalization puts on the people who have no control over it. He doesn't oversimplify the issue, however, by pushing for an end to cultural integration. By portraying the "human elements of economics," he instead proposes that multi-national corporations use alternative business practices.

"'Chicle' was a way for me to empower a culture and provide a way for its story to be told," Hyde writes in his director's statement.

In the summer of 2004, Hyde returned to Peru with film donated by Kodak to film a 14-minute short based on the original "Chicle" script. He then submitted it to film festivals across the United States, garnering the official selection from such festivals as the Tribeca International Film Festival and winning at the Chicago International Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. Those successes solidified Hyde's ability to pursue funding for a feature.

Production still of the camera crew with two of the children in 'Chicle.'On a return trip to the country to do pre-production for the feature, Hyde told the actors of the film's success in the United States. "They just smile. I think it really validates them as people," says the student, who also has received support for his project from Ohio University's Student Enhancement Award program.

Hyde plans to revisit Peru this summer to shoot the full-length feature. He's already scouted locations and cast some of the characters, pitting indigenous Peruvians with no acting experience against Americans trained as actors to further represent the polarizations between the two cultures.

Alan Cuba, the actor who played Mano, Pablo's older brother, in the short, will return for the feature film. He is one of the film's indigenous actors and grew up outside Cusco, running the streets with a crowd of "drug dealers, pimps and scam artists, in order to live up to perceived western standards," Hyde writes in Cuba's biography.

Such a lifestyle is common in the city. Cusco's largely indigenous population has been repressed by Peruvians of European descent who lead vastly different lives.

With the money Cuba made from the short film, Hyde says, "He was actually able to rent his mom a new house." That's a triumph for anyone, no matter the background, "as well as evidence that cinema and its process can have a profound effect on the world and its people," the filmmaker adds.

"Chicle" is now playing at the Berlin International Film Festival, Feb. 13, 14 and 15 as part of Kinderfest Short Films.

Katie Brandt is a writing intern in the Office of Research Communications.

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Published: Feb 15, 2006 8:23:56 AM
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