I’m not entirely sure what drew me to see Postales. Possibly it was an attempt to seek something different after the concentrated Germanic intensity of the previous day. Or else I was intrigued by the setting of Cuzco, Peru: a city nestled in the mountains at 3,400 metres above sea level, and once capital of the Inca Empire. Either way, it was a good decision, for Postales is certainly something quite different. Taking its name from the postcards Pablo (Guimel Soria Martinez) hawks to tourists, the film follows the encounters he and his older brother Jano (Alan Cuba) have with two young and privileged Americans visiting Cuzco with their parents, the 10 year old Mary (Nadia Alexander) and her elder sibling Elizabeth (Megan Tusing).
The story takes a surprising amount of the film’s relatively short run time to get into gear, but it would be churlish to complain when this slow-open showcases what is arguably Postales’ central strength, its connection to its subject. The director, Josh Hyde, has been working on various projects in Cuzco since 2003, making Postales the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of experience and personal investment for Hyde and his compatriots. Though made for a budget of “less than $1 million,” if time is money then Postales is one of the richest productions at this year’s EIFF.
More immediately striking to the casual viewer, however, is the casting of untrained inhabitants of Cuzco as the local characters. I was immediately reminded of Slumdog Millionaire, and the child actors who themselves came from the Mumbai slums. But here the decision serves a further purpose, as the contrast between the locals and the trained American actors authenticates the collision of worlds. The film does not shy away from the misunderstandings and violence that result from such a collision, but there is also an infectious eagerness and optimism. When, after the film, Hyde talked of meeting the street kids in Cuzco, he talked of their unexpected joy, which remained in spite of all their hardships, and it is ultimately that joy which lies at the heart of Postales.