IXCANUL, the auspicious and assured debut feature by Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante wil have its much-anticipated U.S. theatrical release this August. The film, a powerful drama about a culture clash in the land of the Kaqchikel in the Guatemalan highlands, opens at the Laemmle Monica Film Center in Los Angeles on Friday, August 26, and will open in subsequent cities across the country including New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
Winner of the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize at the 2015 Berlinale--the most prestigious film prize ever received by a Central American production--Ixcanul was an official selection of numerous leading international film festivals, such as Toronto and Telluride, and was Guatemala's Academy Awards entry for Best Foreign Language Film.
Bustamante, who grew up in the Guatemalan highlands surrounded by volcanoes and the ancient indigenous traditions of the Maya, channels his roots in his feature debut. María, a 17-year-old Mayan girl, lives and works with her parents on a coffee plantation in the foothills of an active volcano. An arranged marriage awaits her, to Ignacio, the plantation overseer.
A discouraged María seduces Pepe, a young coffee cutter, with plans to run away with him. When Pepe flees he leaves María pregnant, alone and in disgrace. Immersing us in its characters' customs and beliefs, Ixcanul (which means "volcano" in Kaqchikel) chronicles with unblinking realism disappearing traditions and a disappearing people.
Hundreds of thousands of Mayan people were massacred during and after the country's armed conflict (1960–1996). Guatemala has also been deeply affected by child trafficking--a subject of the film. With only 14 million inhabitants, Guatemala became the number one exporter of children in the world. Drawing from real-life stories, Bustamante wrote the narrative with the point of view of the mother. Using non-actor members of the Maya community, Ixcanul explores the lives of a fading way of life against a backdrop of a dominating Westernized culture.