Tuesday, January 12, 2016

IXCANUL, by Gretchen Hustig

On Saturday, December 6, 2015 the Aero welcomed director Jayro Bustamante and screened Ixcanul (Volcano), Guatemala's official - and first-ever! - submission for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award.  Film critic Carlos Aguilar introduced the movie and said it has been picked up and will be distributed by Kino Lorber this year.  He added, “It’s the most amazing film I’ve seen in a long time.” 

After the screening, Bustamante said the story is real, told to him by a Mayan woman.  A living volcano was the set.  He said, “In Guatemala, we are trying to push people to see independent movies.  Thanks to the people who made this film, shooting without running water, electricity and money.”

Asked about the movie’s indigenous dialect, as it is obviously very different from Spanish, Bustamante replied, “First, I love this language.  I know it very well.   I grew up in a Mayan region in Guatemala.”  Eighty percent of the people spoke this Mayan dialect.

While he doesn’t want to make Ixcanul “a political pamphlet” he explained that life is very difficult for these indigenous people.  While Spanish speakers can read and write, many of these people can’t, and live far away from schools and hospitals.  “We want to put light on this,” he said.

How was working with people without previous acting experience?  Bustamente answered, “They are wonderful people.” He searched for the cast in a fruit market.

The Guatemalan premiere was at the volcano, with a green carpet of leaves.  Women who are opinion leaders in the community were invited and they were happy with it, he said.

Not surprisingly, it was dangerous to shoot at the volcano.  When the first location volcano erupted, they moved the production to another one.  In Guatemala there is no movie industry, including insurance. 

Bustamente said when Spanish conquistadors arrived the Mayans didn’t understand their traditions.  If you didn’t follow the Catholic rules, you would go to hell.  For Mayans, fire is sacred.   And, that the alter ego is the volcano, it’s a metaphor, Mayan women are looking for a change – an eruption.