School of Language and Linguistics lecturer, Gabina Funegra, has won the prestigious Local Filmmaker Award at Sydney's Latin American Film Festival for her documentary Quechua - the Fading Inca Language.
Set against the scenery of the Andes, the documentary investigates why the native Quechua language is declining in Peru.
Funegra's connection with Quechua is emotional as well as academic, her parents were Quechua speakers but never taught their language to their children.
"My parents were born in the Andes but they hid their ability to speak their native language because indigenous people were discriminated against," said Funegra, who was raised in Lima.
The lecturer was inspired to write her thesis on Quechua when she heard that cultural pride in the language was being revived, but her decision to film the research trip was accidental.
"I planned to take a tape recorder so that I could record interviews for my qualitative research," she said. "But the staff at UNSW Learning and Teaching told me cameras record better audio so I borrowed one - I never planned to film anything but when I got there the scenery was so beautiful I decided to turn the camera on."
Encouraged by friends and family to produce a video of the footage, the first-time filmmaker entered the Latin American Film Festival, competing against professional documentary makers.
"It was a wonderful and surprising moment when the winners were announced," said Funegra. "I'm proud because this film lets people know about the state of the Quechua language as well as transporting them to another part of the globe."
Funegra has been invited to screen her documentary at the United Nations in Geneva next year. She has also made a Spanish version that will be used as an educational tool in Latin America.
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