Yma Sumac: Hollywood's Inca Princess (1992)

Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - Germany  |  
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Synopsis by Clarke Fountain

It is fairly uncommon for an untrained singer to have a vocal range of two octaves. Trained singers aspire to three octaves but sometimes fall short of that goal. It is practically unheard of to have at one's command a vocal register of four and one half octaves. Indeed, it is somewhat freakish, and musicians usually have no idea how to exploit such a phenomenon to its best advantage. The performer featured in this documentary, Yma Suma, came to the U.S. from Peru in the 1940s and enjoyed a brief popularity as an "incredible Inca princess." Not long after her U.S. career was launched, a slanderous rumor was launched that Yma was an American music student named Amy Camus, which effectively undermined her exotic appeal and ruined her career. Even so, her remarkable voice remained unchanged, and she enjoyed a revived popularity in the 1980s. Featuring clips from her performances in several films, and her '80s revival stage act, cuts from her records, and interviews with everyone except the singer herself (who declined to cooperate with this documentary), this film offers a good introduction to this truly strange and memorable career.