Song Without a Name, the debut feature from Peruvian director Melina León, dramatises a real-life case of human trafficking in Lima in the 1980s. The film, which debuted at Cannes and won the Cinevision Award at the Munich Film Festival, is shot in a black-and-white 4:3 aspect ratio, which lends a journalistic style, heightening the resonance of the true story. It's a tragic postcard from the past, told in a restrained, poetic style. Though meandering at times, it's largely a powerful portrait of a mother's grief and the pursuit of justice.

Song Without a Name opens with Andean couple Georgina and Leo trekking through the wind from their hillside shack to the bus that takes them to Lima. Georgina, heavily pregnant and selling potatoes on the roadside, hears a radio advertisement offering safe childbirth assistance. But when she has her daughter at a downtown clinic, she's whisked away instantly for check-ups, and when Georgina returns the next day, the clinic is deserted and her baby is gone.

Newcomer Pamela Mendoza is brilliant as Georgina, who, destroyed with grief, pleads with ignorant law enforcement officials for assistance. Eventually, she enlists the help of a journalist, Pedro Campos (Tommy Parraga), a character who honours León's own father, a reporter who first broke the real-life trafficking case. Campos has his own sweet subplot in which a flirtation with an actor develops into a touching relationship, which allows León to depict attitudes towards homosexuality in 1980s Peru and how they would have affected Campos' ability to work and live as his true self.

Song Without A Name's slow pace certainly commands concentration from the audience, but as Pedro and Georgina come closer to the truth, the grace of León's visual style deepens the emotion of Georgina's plight. A touching final shot, lingering on Georgina's open, grieving face, brings the tender story to a beautiful, heartbreaking finish.


Song Without A Name

Cast: Pamela Mendoza, Tommy Párraga, Lucio Rojas (Leo Quipse)
Director: Melina León
Running Time: 97 minutes
Rating: M (adult themes)
Verdict: A gently constructed reflection of real-life tragedy
When: Screens again July 23, Academy Cinemas, 1.45pm; July 30, Academy Cinemas, 8.15pm