TIFF 2016 Movie Review: IXCANUL (VOLCANO) (Guatemala, France 2015) ***1/2

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2016. Go to TIFF 2016 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

ixcanul_.jpgIXCANUL (VOLCANO) (Guatemala, France 2015) ***1/2
Directed by Jayro Bustamante

Starring: María Mercedes Coroy, María Telón, Manuel Antún

Review by Gilbert Seah

It i the age old story of a human being’s quest for a better life despite mounting odds. Here is Maria’s desire to marry the one she loves and to escape to a better place, where the grass is greener. But she is betroth to someone else, while she gets pregnant in the meantime by her jilted lover. This story has been told many times in many films before but never in this new and mesmerizing and dreamlike fashion.

Maria is the daughter born into a poor family that work the plantations under a stern landlord who is never seen. Maria is match-made to Ignacio, the boss’s favourite. But Maria has someone else she desires – Pepe. But Pep is fond of drinking and not the chivalrous hero one would imagine. After getting drunk one night and impregnating poor maria, he abandons her while he takes off illegally to cross the border to the U.S. Maria’s mother attempts to, but fails to abort the baby.

The occasionally brilliant debut by Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante is a mesmerizing fusion of fact and fable, a dreamlike depiction of the daily lives of Kaqchikel speaking Mayans on a coffee plantation at the base of an active volcano. The title of the film IXCANUL means volcano, which the family prays to and give offerings, hoping to begat wealth, happiness and if not, at least a decent living.

Bustamante immerses his audience into its characters’ customs and beliefs. IXCANUL chronicles with unblinking realism, a disappearing tradition and a disappearing people.

IXCANUL emerges an impressive chronicle of the lives of a people as seen by the observation of the hardships o a single family. This kind of film seldom earns a commercial release. Shot in the languages of Kaqchikel and Spanish. Entertaining and mesmerizing!

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