Mama Irene: Healer of the Andes
Mama Irene: Healer of the Andes
Mama Irene: Healer of the Andes

Mama Irene: Healer of the Andes

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    • Directed by: Bettina Ehrhardt & Elisabeth Möhlmann 
    • Released: 2022 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2021
Running Time: 71 min
Language: English
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: South American Studies, Spirituality Studies, Women's Studies
This is a film about Mama Irene, a remarkable 86-year-old woman Shaman (healer) from Peru who draws upon indigenous knowledge and traditions in danger of being lost forever. Yet her craft is based primarily on her own intuition: “Spirits have told me in my dreams how to proceed.”

The documentary follows Mama Irene in her everyday life, highlighting her healing methods and passion to serve each patient who knocks on her door: from local women who travel hours or days by foot through the Andes, to a medical doctor from India seeking a cure for illness that Western medicine had failed to help.

We accompany Mama Irene on ancient spiritual ceremonies such as the Snow Star Festival, where thousands of pilgrims gather in Sinakara Valley high in the Peruvian Andes to honor the local glacier and Lord Quylluritj’i. The film depicts Mama Irene’s secret healing practices, never before filmed. Yet this film is not only a vital document of endangered wisdom; it is also a story about woman empowerment.

As the film unfolds, we learn about Mama Irene’s personal journey. She discovered her healing gift by chance at three years old, when she intuitively healed a neighbor’s migraines by rubbing her own salvia on his forehead. She became known in the village as El doctor pequeño — the little doctor. She was sold by her father into slavery; beaten by her husband, who was determined to keep her in the role of servile female; gave birth to 15 children, eight of whom died; endured misogyny and rivalry from male shamans.

Yet Mama Irene never wavered in pursuing her craft. She believed in herself and in the gifts she was born with. This is a story about a woman who overcome tremendous trauma and obstacles, and continues to grow and inspire at age 86.
Winner of the Prize for the Special Topic "Women- Environment - Activism for the Greenmotion Film Festival Freiburg, Germany
"It's a profoundly sensitive and courageous work. The steadiness of its compassionate, honest observation is an example of real human transcendence is as tangible a use of the film medium as I've ever seen." - William Hurt
"The film is valuable for visual ethnography, as it is a contribution important to revalue and spread a sample of our cultural heritage immaterial, contributing to the dissemination and awareness of the safeguarding of Andean medical systems of Cusco." - Mr. Ricardo Guevara, Cultural Industries of the Disconcerted Directorate of Culture, Cusco, and Sub-Directorate of Cultural Industries and Arts
"As Quechua language and Andean culture instructor at the U. of Colorado, I am always looking for visual materials to motivate and engage my students. This past semester I assigned Mama Irene to my students. It was an excellent choice. The students really enjoyed and connected with the story and shared thoughtful comments. As a woman growing up in the Peruvian Andes, I also appreciated and related to the life of Mama Irene, an Andean woman and healer who carries so much important knowledge about our culture and I’m thrilled to share her story." -Doris Loayza, Quechua language and Andean culture instructor - University of Colorado
"Mama Irene - Healer of the Andes" is a film that portrays the life of a Peruvian Andean woman connected to Mother Nature. A person of great faith who embraces the catholic religion, introduced to Peru from Occident, without leaving aside her indigenous roots and her ancestral knowledge, which she preserves and cultivates very well. Mama Irene is an example of service, as she shares her knowledge and experiences with the women of her community, seeking to empower them in their role at home and within the community. This production manages to explore in a comprehensive way the Andean cosmovision and the role of women in Peruvian indigenous society." - Ambassador of Peru to Canada, Roberto Rodríguez Arnillas
"Mama Irene is a passion play of the everyday hardscrabble yet transcendent lives of Andean people today: high altitude but down to earth. Eight decades on, Mama Irene has seen hard times aplenty yet is rooted in Pachamama and prays to the Apus to help her people. It is a film for our time as a lesson to be present in a world both natural and spiritual. To cherish and preserve the past while working for good in the present." - Jeffrey Quilter


About the filmmaker 


Elisabeth Möhlmann (Producer, Co-Director, Co-Writer) Based in NYC and Mexico, first time film maker  Elisabeth Möhlmann has a rich background as a global citizen, actor and theatre company director. Born in Munich, Elisabeth grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She studied philosophy in Munich and acting at the Lee Strasberg school in NYC before returning to Germany, which she enjoyed recognition in Germany as proprietor of Theater of Light theater company. Elisabeth has been nurturing a trusting relationship for many years with Mama Irene and thus Mama Irene has granted Elisabeth exclusive rights to document her life and healing craft. In 2019 Elisabeth founded Blaze A Path Productions in NYC.


Bettina Ehrhardt (Co-Director/Co-Writer) Based in Munich, Germany, Bettina Ehrhardt is an award-winning documentary director and producer. Her films have won numerous awards at international film festivals and been broadcast on television worldwide (ZDF, Arte, WDR, BR, Radio Canada, RAI, SVT, et. al). Her subjects have ranged from ethnology (films on Sherpas, Tuaregs or the Vodoun religion in West Africa), ecology, and nature, to politics, arts and music, including films about musicians Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, and composers Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Pierre Boulez, and Luigi Nono.


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