Home / Culture  / Gabina Funegra strives to revive the Quecha language with her documentary: “The language is declining.”

Gabina Funegra strives to revive the Quecha language with her documentary: “The language is declining.”


Peruvian Professor, PHD student, and most recently filmmaker, Gabina Funegra is traveling the globe with one big message, “Do not let Quechua die!”  Quechua, an ancient indigenous language was widely spoken in the Andes until the Spanish conquered the Incan Empire.

Currently, worldwide Quechua speakers are hard to come by. Funegra was on a quest to understand her indigenous roots and found an alarming discovery;  Quechua, the language she thought was being revived in Peru was dying.

“The language is declining so I really want with this film to try to get people to do strategies to revitalize the language,” said Funegra. “That’s what’s important for me, for us to go back to our roots and be able to speak Quechua.”

Her award-winning documentary, Quechua, The Fading Inca Language originated from her thesis for her PHD program at the University of West South Wales in Australia.  She wanted to investigate strategies to revitalize Quechua, the language of her ancestors.  She was told to get a tape recorder in order to conduct her investigation but ended up getting a video camera and decided it would be more fulfilling to film her thesis instead.

Gabina’s first documentary was a personal journey through the place of her mother’s indigenous origins. Along with her daughter Erika, they travel to a remote village in search for their mother’s language and find  a fading of the Quechua language, the official language of the great Inca Empire.

As a result of these findings Gabina decided to delve deeper into the story of Quechua, and explore, through film, strategies on the promotion and rehabilitation of the Quechua language in a globalized world. As part of the research, Gabina visited three locations: Cuzco, Paris and New York, focusing in this film in the city of Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire.

In order to identify strategies that facilitate language revival and maintenance, Gabina interviews artists, musicians, singers, students, teachers, models, project leaders and members of the Quechua community.

In her documentary Funegra finds that people in Huallanca didn’t want to be looked down upon because of the negative stereotypes associated with the indigenous language such as  poverty and ignorance.  They were also concerned that people wouldn’t understand them and that they would face discrimination if they chose to speak in their indigenous language.

Despite the fact that the documentary warns of the decline of the Quechua Language, the film also  inspires audiences around the world to find strategies to rehabilitate and maintain their own native languages. The documentary won the Local Filmmaker’s Award in the 2010 Sydney Latin American Film Festival.  Funegra also produced a shorter film titled “Mother Tongue” which follows her on her journey to Peru.  Gabina has been invited to present her films around the world including at the Sorbonne in Paris and the United Nations in Geneva and Bangkok.  Press Pass Latino picked her brain about her documentary productions.

Did you receive funding for this film?

I didn’t receive any funding to make the film mainly because I never had the intention to make a movie. I was actually doing fieldwork in Peru for my MA thesis at the University of New South Wales in Australia.  The film was part of my thesis, so it was a very low budget production. All the work was done by my daughter Erika and myself.

 Where did you screen it?

I have been very fortunate in that the film has been well received. Since winning the Sydney Latin American Festival in 2010, the documentary has been translated into English, French, Spanish, and Japanese and it will soon be translated into German and most significantly, into Quechua. In 2011, I presented the film at the United Nations in Geneva, the United Nations in Bangkok, the Peruvian Film Festival of Paris, the Sorbonne University, and two International Congresses in Ecuador and New Zealand.  In 2012, the documentary was shown for the first time in Lima, Peru.  In 2013, I presented the film in Cuzco. In Australia, it has been screened in several universities.  In September 2014, it was presented in the Federation of Endangered Languages XVIII Conference in Okinawa and in the Linguapax Asia Symposium in Tokyo. In 2015, it was presented at Clacs at NYU, Rowan University at New Jersey and Pennsylvania University in Philadelphia. So, it has been a very rewarding experience for me that my little film has been shown around the world and that audiences have connected and identified with the story of the people of Huallanca.

Where else are you going to screen it?

Later this year, I may have the opportunity to screen the film at UGA University of Georgia, Indiana University and Tulane University, Louisiana.

Where can people watch and buy it?

People can contact me at my web site: g.funegra@unsw.edu.au

Do you think Quechua will be revived?

This is a very difficult question for me to answer. Of course, in my heart I would love to see the language grow and flourish, but there are so many factors that impact upon language use that I can only say that I hope that it will be revived.

What do you hope people who watch your film get out of it?

I hope that people can see the rich and beautiful culture of the people living in the Andes. It is such an amazing place; the people are so connected to the land and the mountains. To be able to share that with audiences and to hope that they become aware of the tragedy that is the loss of endangered languages as they provide us with a window into other worlds and cultures.

Where will you go next with this film and what are you working on now?

I am now doing my PhD, and my research focuses on Quechua language use around the world. As part of the PhD, I am making a new film to complement the first documentary as it shows a global perspective. I then hope to share the story of Quechua with more people around the world.


Erica Robinson is a bilingual (English and Spanish) Multimedia journalist in New York City. She received her Masters in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked abroad in Guatemala and was a production assistant for Canal 15 in San Jose, Costa Rica. She loves reporting on the Latino community and specializes in immigration issues.

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