The Limits of Peruvian Transitional Justice and the Effect of Retributive Justice on the Resilience of Survivors in Cuchillos en el cielo (2013)

In the aftermath of the Peruvian armed conflict of the 1980s and 1990s and the publication of the Comisión de la verdad y reconciliación in 2003, we are left with the question: how might transitional justice address harms inflicted on survivors and provide some measure of healing? Scholars like Anne Lambright and Alexandra Hibbett analyze the effects of violence on Peru’s citizenry and recognize the need for intercultural understanding and narratives expressing different viewpoints; they question the ability to overcome collective trauma. While I agree that one never fully overcomes trauma, I examine cultural production that underscores the role of resilience and processes supporting resilient communities.  In this manuscript, I examine Cuchillos en el cielo (2013) by Alberto Durant, a film based on a CVR testimony by a woman—in the film named Milagros—incarcerated for suspected terrorist activity and raped by the soldiers that detained her. After ten years in prison and following her release, her legal case against the soldiers that raped her, her identity as a terrorist, and her estranged relationship with her daughter born of rape problematize her reintegration into her community. I argue that the legal, retributive justice fails to address the needs of suspected terrorists and rape survivors. Structural and legalistic barriers challenge and harm Milagros’ resilience and impede any possibility of reconciliation. In the larger discussion of Peruvian transitional justice, I suggest that the film leaves space for more restorative practices in postconflict Peru.



  • Spanish American Studies