Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  27 minutes
Date:  2011
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Spanish / English subtitles
Grade level: 8-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Guanape Sur

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A barren rock island off the coast of Peru. Every eleven years hundreds of men come here, to dig up guano, the shit the birds leave behind.

Guanape Sur

Guanape Sur. A barren rock island off the coast of Peru. No soil, no water. Nothing is growing here.

Around its shores a restricted area has been established. The island serves hundreds of thousands of sea birds as a breeding ground.

One of its peculiarities is that for a period of ten years only two men may live on it, in the eleventh year though, hundreds of men simultaneously pounce on its slopes in order to recover the bird's bequests: dried excrement, an acrid mixture of nitrogen and phosphor compounds, potassium oxide and quicklime, which blunts one's sense of smell. It can be used as a fertilizer or for producing dynamite. Its name is one of the few words the world borrowed from the language of the Incas: guano.

A war has been fought over guano. And even during peacetime, harvesting it from the sharp rock is a brutal fght. Everything on the island is done by hand.

'...provides an introspective visual peek into the backbreaking work and dramatically stark scenery involved in this hand harvest. ...the attractive cinematography, with its combination of panoramic vistas and intimate human moments, gives the audience a window into the people behind this unusual Peruvian profession and an austere island seascape few of us will see in person.' -Science Books and Films

'A barren island off the coast of Peru is the breeding ground for thousands of sea birds that are its sole inhabitants. Once every eleventh year, hundreds of men make their way to the island to harvest the birds' dried excrement, which is then used as valuable fertilizer. Through gorgeous cinematography and patient observation, Janos Richter offers an intriguing look at a most unlikely of jobs, in the most unlikely of places.' -Sky Sitney, AFI Discovery Silver Docs


** 2012 Latin American Studies Association (LASA)
** Winner, 2011 David L. Wolper Award, International Documentary Association (IDA)
** 2011 Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival
** 2011 Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival
** 2011 Visions du Reel Documentary Film Festival
** 2011 HotDocs Documentary Film Festival
** 2011 London International Documentary Film Festival
** 2011 Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival
** 2011 Margaret Mead Film Festival
** 2010 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)


Main credits

Richter, János (film director)

Other credits

Cinematography, Jakob Stark; editing, János Richter.

Distributor credits

Janos Richter

Docuseek2 subjects

Environmental Geography
Labor Studies
Resource Planning and Management
Latin American Studies

Distributor subjects

Environmental Film Festivals
Latin America
South America


GUANAPE; islas; Peru; Peruvian; guano; uneven development; place; economic geography; sea birds; workers; developing countries; labor; labour; work; resources; labor market; documentary; film; video; DVD; birds; "Guanape Sur"; Icarus Films;

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