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Mayan-language film about indigenous women becomes surprise hit in Guatemala

November 4, 2016








Ixcanul, a Mayan-language film by director Jayro Bustamante, has become a bonafide hit in Guatemala. The movie is currently in the midst of its third theatrical run. Its star, María Mercedes Coroy, has scored a campaign with Pepsi, and was recently featured on the cover of a fashion magazine. She is the first indigenous woman in Guatemala to claim that honor.

The overwhelmingly positive reception of Ixcanul is surprising, because Guatemala’s indigenous people exist on the margins of society. Bustamante told The Huffington Post that he heard audience members laugh at the Mayan dialect spoken by the film’s characters. “The racism in Guatemala is very crude and very strong,” he said. “[People] feel the language is part of the past and not part of the progress we have made in the country.”

Ixcanul derives its name from a Mayan term that can be roughly translated as “volcano.” The film follows a peasant girl named María, who lives on the slopes of a volcano, where her parents work as coffee farmers. She is promised in marriage to a city-dwelling widower, but falls in love — to devastating effect — with a boy from her village.

The film will arrive in U.S. theaters in October.


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