Meet Sisa Quispe, One of the 5 Winners of the 5th Annual Focus Features & JetBlue Student Short Film Showcase

A Q&A with the writer and director of the Peruvian adventure Urpi: Her Last Wish.

The Gotham Film & Media Institute announced that Sisa Quispe’s short film Urpi: Her Last Wish is one of five works chosen by a special jury of filmmakers, curators, and critics for the Focus Features & JetBlue Student Short Film Showcase. Created as her MFA thesis film for City College of New York, Urpi: Her Last Wish was selected out of a pool of projects from 34 different graduate programs.

In Urpi: Her Last Wish, Urpi (Sisa Quispe) travels to the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the Peruvian Andes. Along the way, she meets Sayri (Juan Abel Ojeda Llanos), an indigenous Andean who helps her in her journey to understand her true identity.

We asked Quispe to tell us a little about the inspiration for her film, the artists who influenced her, and her plans for the future.

Follow her on Instagram: @sisa_quispe and @urpi_su_ultimo_deseo

Urpi: Her Last Wish

Where did the idea for Urpi: Her Last Wish come from?

This film was inspired by my identity journey. It explores my search for self-discovery, decolonization, and questioning the identities that were imposed on me as an indigenous woman. I believe that it is critical to understand where we come from in order to know where we are going.

How did you find your cast?

In casting, I immediately thought of my Quechua friends and real people from the Andes. I wanted us to represent ourselves. There’s a power to that. My crew were mostly Quechua just like me. I’m deeply inspired by their commitment and willingness to learn. Just like me, we all want to tell our stories.

What In the final cut most captures what you saw in your mind when you first imagined the film?

I think it is better than what I imagined. It’s so beautiful to witness the story's journey. One of the biggest changes happened when my grandmother passed away, just before I traveled to Peru for the shooting. Reshaping the film during production and post-production has been like a medicine to me, and I felt my grandmother guiding me through it.

Writer-director Sisa Quispe

What was the biggest lesson learned working on Urpi: Her Last Wish?

To trust my intuition and focus on the message and the feeling of the story. Everything else comes by itself.

As an emerging filmmaker, who are your influences?

I feel connected and deeply inspired by Ava Duvernay, who challenges and rethinks the narratives that were given to us.

What was the first film you saw that made you want to be a filmmaker?

What led me to become a filmmaker was the misrepresentation of my community. The stereotypes portrayed in media are so powerful that we unknowingly internalize them, right or wrong. I felt that it was important for us to have agency and tell our own stories.

Urpi: Her Last Wish

Are you working on a feature film? What is it about?

I’m currently working on two short films and developing my first feature. One is a narrative short film called Kusi Smiles, a film about healing among the community and the return to the land that raised us, which is going to be mainly in Quechua, my indigenous language. The other one is a short documentary titled Yakumama (Mother Water) that aims to decolonize the way we perceive water. And I’m working on adapting Urpi: Her Last Wish into a feature film.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.