Leonardo Tello Imaina

Associate producer/co-script

Leonardo is a Kukama poet and director of Radio Ucamara, a community radio station based in Nauta, in Peru’s Amazon region. Leonardo is the heart of the Karuara film. He has been recording oral stories and legends about the Kukama people and their environment for over a decade.

Leonardo edited the book Karuara, People of the River and has directed numerous music videos with Kukama youth, cultural videos and news reports. Leonardo also founded the “Escuela Ikuari”, a Kukama language school run by elderly volunteers in the city of Nauta.

Mari Luz Canaquiri

Protagonist, local producer

Mari Luz is president of Huaynakana Kamatahuara kana, the Kukama Women’s Federation, and has been working on campaigns to defend the Amazon’s rivers and indigenous territory for the past 20 years. She is a mother, grandmother and farmer and lives in Shapajilla, a small village on the Marañon river, a tributary of the Amazon.

At the age of 13 she had to leave school to help support her family and began working as a housekeeper and nanny in the large jungle city of Iquitos. She is 52 years old.

As local producer on Karuara she is in charge of organizing the logistics for our filming in the Amazon. She is also involved in the editing process as a consultant, watching footage, scenes and rough cuts and providing criticism and advice. During the research phase Mari Luz provided informationand contacts about the Kukama culture, cosmovision and environmental threats facing the region.

Mari Luz was a co-publisher of the book Karuara, People of the River. She organized the art and story-telling workshops for the project and has presented the book in more than a dozen events in Peru and Canada.

Don José Murayari


Fisherman, grandfather, leader and translator. Don José continues to practice the ancient fishing rituals his grandfather taught him in childhood. He chants scared “icaros” to the fish, calling them to him, and hangs his hooks and places his nets with infinite patience.

Don José floats through the water, propelled by a single oar held in his right hand which he moves slowly, as though stirring a spoon. On the shore the boat continues to move with the waves. His wife, Doña Vilma, and the viewers are witnesses of his journeys on the river.

In the dark of the night a flashlight is visible. Drawing closer we see it is tied to the side of Don José’s head, like a moving lighthouse. He tirelessly checks every hook and line, accompanied by a symphony of insects. During the long waiting hours, Don José always has a story to tell.

“The day I don’t fish, I don’t eat.”

Doña María Nieves

Animation Narrator, Kukama consultant

Singer, teacher, grandmother and storyteller. Doña María tells us the story of the Boa Woman, about the origins of the Kukama people.

As a child, she was not allowed to speak the Kukama language at school. She was punished for speaking “the language of the natives” and made to feel ashamed of her mother tongue. Doña Maria finally learned how to speak Kukama when she was a grandmother, as a member of the Ikuari language school, founded and run by Radio Ucamara.
This group of elderly volunteers has taught the Kukama language to more than 100 boys and girls in the city of Nauta, on the banks of the Marañón River. The school was recently closed due to lack of funds, but Doña María continues to share and teach her language in a weekly program on Radio Ucamara.

Don José Huaymacari

Animation Narrator, Kukama consultant

Teacher, grandfather, storyteller, language ambassador. Don José tells us the story of the origin of the rivers in the Amazon with characteristic grace and calm. He patiently modelled all the movements for our Kukama god animation, the protagonist of his story and shot many arrows to inspire us.

He was also a language teacher with the Ikuari School and broadcasts a weekly program on Radio Ucamara in Kukama with other members.