Our Man In Iquitos: Pirate Radio, Politics and Chicha in the Amazon

By 26 September, 2010

Our Man in Iquitos is a documentary film about Ranil, a Peruvian musician, pirate radio impresario and political gadfly from Iquitos – the capital of the Peruvian Amazon. Since he began recording music in the 1970’s, Ranil has transformed himself from a popular player of chicha (also known as Amazonian or Peruvian cumbia) to a beloved local activist and radio personality – and now a mayoral candidate.

Raul Llerena (his given name) was born in Belen, a mostly poor and indigenous neighborhood in Iquitos. As a young man, Ranil went to Lima to study to become a teacher, but returned to Belen upon graduating and was soon fronting his own chicha band. Unlike his peers in local bands Los Silvers or Los Wemblers, Ranil refused to sign on with a label and decided to start his own – a bold move at the time.

Ranil put out a number of popular albums but, due to the independent nature of the venture, his fame never crossed over to the rest of the country. In the early 90’s, not satisfied to simply be a musician, Ranil decided to start his own radio station and quickly became known as an outspoken provocateur who didn’t hesitate to take on the most sensitive issues.

At close to seventy. Ranil shows little sign of slowing down. He is an incredibly vibrant character with a real concern for his fellow Amazonians, a wonderfully generous spirit with a great sense of humor. Ranil is the true incarnation of independence. He has lived through dictatorships, an oil boom, terrorism, and yet has managed to never compromise.

Ranil is now running for mayor of Iquitos, and is backed by the well established national party Accion Popular. With their support, there’s a chance he might actually win, and we need your help to fund a trip to Iquitos to shoot his run and the election day.

Our Man in Iquitos is also a film about the city of Iquitos itself. With one million inhabitants and no road access whatsoever, Iquitos is the largest isolated city in the world. Its legend dates back to the rubber boom of the 1890’s that inspired Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo as well as Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams. A city of great riches and extreme poverty, Iquitos has been shaped by unexpected twists of history: the rubber and oil booms, the explosion of Amazonian cumbia, and now tourism around the drug Ayahuasca.


To tell this story, the producers of Our Man In Iquitos are asking for your help. With your assistance, they will be able to cover expenses for what will be the first of at least three trips to Iquitos. Your contributions will go towards flights, local transportation and accommodation, hiring a local crew, renting equipment and filming the electoral process as they follow Ranil, his mayoral opponents, and the many other characters who fill Ranil’s world.

To find out more about contributing to this venture please follow this link:

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