KVIFF Review: Night Has Come (2024)

In 2020, Peru’s former Minister of Defense José Gavidia announced a new government strategy to close 40 military bases located in the VRAEM (the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers). The plan was, according to him, to turn them into “production and development centres of the area” by 2026. If this is a good idea, the time will show considering the scary fact that the remnants of guerilla groups and drug cartels are still roaming the area in Peru’s top cocaine-producing area.

In his debut feature-length documentary Night Has Come Peruvian director Paolo Tizón aims his gaze at the rookies of the Peruvian military forces specialized in combats in the so-called “cocaine valley”. He treats the unit as such, choosing not to turn his attention to individuals who are seen only as part of the group while interacting, conversing or going through intense military training. We are introduced to the young men long before they get a chance to be immersed in any form of interaction, and even before they endure a medical check-up which also involves a very precise measurement of bones. We are with them up on a military plane, as they line up to take a skydive as part of the training. The sound of propellers is deafening, but when the perspective changes to film the parachutes from the ground, it’s the silence that cuts its slice. This probably wasn’t a part of Tizón’s plan, who boarded the project as a one-man team before he was joined by his sound technician, and finally by two more people to help him finalize the shooting under precarious conditions.

Tizón spent around ten months living in the military barracks with the rookies to shoot this delicate documentary about their lives and thoughts exchanged during the training, or in the moments of rest. The director is always present with his camera, but he holds himself quietly in the background except in a couple of situations when his voice can actually be heard, as part of a conversation. With his hand-held camera shooting in close-ups and medium shots, Tizón, so to speak, breaths on the men’s necks never taking more than a couple of steps distance from his subjects. He is very close to men going through physically challenging bootcamp, showing the strain and pain.

The mandatory head shave marks the beginning of it all, and all things personal are left behind in the world of civilian liberties regarding small things like choosing clothes, hairdo and getting out of bed according to one’s plans for the day. An average boy just has to grin and bear it, just as it is written on one of the tree trunks that a group of soldiers is asked to lift and carry to the bonfire: “Pain is temporary”. Is it though? The night brings more challenges. As the abusive voice of a commander continues to demand the impossible of his soldiers: to dive into the water and march through the forest, they get completely swallowed by the darkness that echoes with their chanting.

Night Has Come, which has just world-premiered in the Proxima competition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, is a documentary with the dynamics of an intelligently plotted thriller that leans on the military’s cold rules to add to the feeling of unease.

Original Title: Vino La Noche
Countries: Peru, Spain, Mexico
Language: Spanish
Production: Sinesol Films
Written/ Directed/ Shot by: Paolo Tizón