Filmatique | Ixcanul on Filmatique


// Presented as part of Filmatique's Ecologies Series //

Spotlight on Ixcanul  

Exclusive Essay: Precarious Life at Ixcanul Volcano




Jayro Bustamante / 2015, Berlin, AFI, Belize, Biarritz, Cartagena, FEST International Film Festival, FNC - Festival du nouveau cinéma Montreal, Ghent, Guadalajara, Lima, Molodist, Mumbai, NYT Critics' Pick, Oslo Films from the South, Philadelphia, Rotterdam, San Sebastián, São Paulo, Toronto / 93'


María, a 17-year-old Mayan girl, lives in the Guatemalan highlands. Each day she works alongside her parents on coffee plantations belonging to a local man, to whose son she has been recently been betrothed in marriage. At night, however, María sneaks out to rendezvous with another boy her age who will soon depart on the perilous journey to the US border. Desperate to be taken along, María sleeps with and is soon abandoned by Ignacio, left to deal with threats to both her pregnancy and her vanishing way of life at the base of the rumbling volcano.


Rooted in the quotidian rituals of Central America's indigenous communities, Ixcanul captures ecological cadences and ancient traditions in mesmerizing visual and sonic detail. Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante's debut feature premiered at Berlin, where it won the Alfred Bauer Award; Biarritz, where it won Best Film; Cartagena, where it won Best Film; FEST, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Debut; Guadalajara, where it won Best Film and Best Director; Lima, where it won Best Actress; Molodist, where it won Best Feature Film and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury; and Philadelphia, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. Ixcanul is the only film to be made in the Kaqchikel Mayan language and Guatemala's first-ever submission to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.



"A young Mayan woman finds herself at a crossroads between the ancient and modern worlds in Ixcanul Volcano, a transporting, hypnotically beautiful debut feature from Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante. A simple, fable-like movie made in close collaboration with a real Mayan farming community from the Guatemalan highlands, Bustamante's film is downright Herzogian… in its surfeit of physical detail, observed ritual and looming clash of civilizations"

- Scott Foundas, Berlin Review, Variety