Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Melina Leon
Writer: Melina Leon, Michael J. White
Actors: Pamela Mendoza, Tommy Parraga, Lucio Rojas, Ruth Armas, Maykol Hernandez
By Joan Amenn
“Song Without a Name” (2020) confronts the persistent horror of child trafficking that has been ongoing in Peru for decades. It is a gut-wrenching situation but the film has strangely few emotionally evocative moments. As a debut film, it is an impressive achievement but could have been even more powerful with just a little more focus on the heart of the story, Georgina (Pamela Mendoza).
The indigenous people of Peru are shown to live in dire poverty, clinging to each other and their traditions in a hostile country that clearly does not value them. Georgina and her boyfriend Leo (Lucio Rojas) barely make a living selling potatoes in the marketplace. He is an ethnic dancer and is held in high esteem by their fellow villagers. She is pregnant with their first child but they obviously have no money for proper medical care. One day, she hears an ad on the radio for a free pregnancy clinic in the city of Lima. This is when her nightmare begins.
“The indigenous women of Peru deserve to have their stories told and “Song Without a Name” bravely takes this responsibility on but it seems to be a first chapter rather than a complete narrative.”
It is devastating to witness her loss as she is brutally pushed out of the clinic without her child. This is when “Song Without a Name” is at its most heart shattering, but it never maintains that sense of desperation because everyone around Georgina is surprisingly passive about her situation. Even her boyfriend, who goes with her to the police to no avail, returns to his travels with his troupe of dancers and musicians. He does not seem distraught at all, while she continues to ride the bus into Lima to bang on the doors of the now abandoned clinic in despair. The only person to take her seriously is Pedro (Tommy Parraga), a journalist who champions her cause. He proves to have great investigative skills but the film never builds up tension as he uncovers clues to reveal who is behind the kidnapping of Georgina’s child and many others.
Director Melina Leon based her script, which she wrote with Michael J. White, on true events that sadly continue even now. The film is set in black and white, which frankly gives it a sense of happening much longer ago than the 1980’s when it actually took place. This is not necessarily a good thing, since it gives the illusion that trafficking was a problem of another era.
Pamela Mendoza has mournful, expressive eyes and her Georgina seems used to being seen as less than a person by those in authority in her country. Only Pedro, who receives the approval of his editor for breaking the story of the kidnappings, seems to want to fight to reunite her with her child. This makes the film feel oddly stagnant and lacking any kind of resolution. The indigenous women of Peru deserve to have their stories told and “Song Without a Name” bravely takes this responsibility on but it seems to be a first chapter rather than a complete narrative.