Latin America for film fanatics
The waterfall that nearly killed Jeremy Irons in The Mission, the wilds of Patagonia where Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s life changed course in The Motorcycle Diaries, the mountains that were Klaus Kinski’s obsession in Fitzcarraldo: you’ve seen it on the screen, now check it out in real life!
Text: Diego Muñoz @Hermeselsabio
Iguaçu, Brasil – Argentina
The Mission (1986)
Only one thing from The Mission is more memorable than Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack: the impressive waterfalls that are a constant threat to the main characters. This film tells the story of two missionaries who attempted to save a Guaraní tribe from slavery. The powerful performances by Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons are complemented by another stunning presence: the Latin American landscape in all its splendor. Accept the mission to visit these spectacular falls – you won’t regret it.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The legendary siege of Troy and the imposing wall that the Greeks breached, under the leadership of Achilles (played by Brad Pitt), was filmed (believe it or not) just 800 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Fortunately, things are simpler these days, and you can visit these impressive destinations without having to declare war on a nation for the love of a woman – or hide inside a giant horse.
Iquitos & Puerto Maldonado, Perú
Legend has it that the tension between Klaus Kinski and everyone else on the Fitzcarraldo set was so high that director Werner Herzog contemplated getting rid of him more than once. Did Herzog ever go as far as actually making plans? Who knows… But you can travel to Peru and delight in the jungle, the mountains and the rivers that served as a backdrop for this classic film. Transporting an entire ship might not be the best idea, but you can stay at the hotel La casa de Fitzcarraldo, listen to the stories, see photographs from the production and learn about the true story of rubber merchant Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, who inspired the film. And you won’t have to worry about Kinski at all.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
This underrated Peter Weir film recounts the story of a warship captain played by Russell Crowe, who not only has to deal with a dangerous enemy ship, but a crew on the verge of mutiny. The tension is broken when they decide to visit the Galapagos Islands, a destination that was even more exotic at the time (the early 19th century). While admiring the local flora and fauna, both crew and captain catch their breath and see the world open up before them in a moment that not only lends their characters a certain dignity, but also pays tribute to humanity and its desire to explore. And though we’re centuries apart, the moment remains as sublime as ever.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
This Walter Salles film tells the story of the famous motorcycle trip taken by Che Guevara and Alberto Granado through Latin America. The adventure opened Guevara’s eyes and led him to become a symbol for class struggle. Salles took full advantage of the stunning locations – including Argentinean Patagonia, southern Chile and the peaks of Machu Picchu – in the smartest way possible: by shooting the real-life sites visited by Guevara and Granado on their beat-up bike, “La Poderosa.”
Cerro Paranal, Chile
Quantum of Solace (2008)
In this Bond film, the luxury hotel that serves as the villain’s secret lair was played by the real-life residence of the scientists who work at the Paranal Observatory. Located in the middle of the desert, it’s a place of such beauty that 007 just had to blast it to pieces. But don’t worry: you can still visit and pretend to be a criminal kingpin: the scene was achieved by blowing up detailed models. Thank goodness!
Favela Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro
The Incredible Hulk (2008) / Fast Five (2011)
For Hollywood producers, a good chase scene is even better if it takes place in an exotic location filled with obstacles that make the pursuit all the more challenging. And Brazil’s largest favela clearly meets all the requirements. Rocinha’s twisted streets and inventive architecture provided the setting for an escape by Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk), as well as the world’s favorite illegal racers: the “family” in Fast Five. Your visit probably won’t include as much adrenaline and mayhem, but the scenery will still leave you breathless. in