‘Ixcanul (Volcano)’ Chosen as Guatemala’s First Ever Academy Awards Entry

‘Ixcanul’ Chosen as Guatemala’s First Time
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

Drama-thriller has already won a top prize at Berlin, and the top prize at Guadalajara and Cartagena

MADRID — It’s official: For the first time ever, Guatemala is submitting a film to bid for a spot in the Oscars’ foreign-language film category — and it’s one of the most talked-up first features this year from Latin America at that: Jayro Bustamante’s “Ixcanul” (Volcano).

A Guatemala-France drama-thriller sold by Film Factory, which jumped on the title when it played in rough cut at San Sebastian’s Films in Progress, “Ixcanul” has already run up noteworthy kudos credentials: It won the Berlinale’s Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize, then topped Guadalajara and Cartagena, Mexico and Colombia’s biggest fests, respectively. It has also struck spirited initial international sales for Film Factory.

Described by Variety’s Scott Foundas as “a transporting, hypnotically beautiful debut feature” and “downright Herzogian (far more Herzogian than Herzog’s own ‘Queen of the Desert’),” “Ixcanul” is produced by Guatemala’s La Casa de Produccion and Edgard Tenembaum’s Paris-based Tu Vas Voir, whose credits also include Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

The story of a young Mayan woman, living in a community of Kaqchikel-speaking coffee farmers, whose unwanted pregnancy brings her into final — and shocking — contact with the modern world she dreamt so much about, “Ixcanul” delivers a sucker punch about what Bustamante has called one driving theme of “Ixcanul”: the “impossibility of an underage woman, who is Mayan and lives far from a big city, to determine her own destiny.”

He added: “Mayans are found at the lowest point of this terrible scale, and the lowest among the Mayan population are women.”

Confirming speculation, the Oscar announcement was made at Guatemala’s Unidad de Cine, part of the country’s Ministry of Culture and Sports, just before “Ixcanul” unspooled in Guatemala at a gala screening.

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  1. I am sorry for quoting Wikipedia as a source, but at the moment is my only source. I found that it says:

    “The Silence of Neto is a 1994 Guatemalan drama film directed by Luis Argueta. The film was selected as the Guatemalan entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.”

    Has Ixcanul being accepted as a nominee? Does “submission” and “acceptance” make a difference?

    • timgray2013 says:

      You raise a valid question. There is definitely a difference between submission and receiving a nomination. About 80 countries submit films for the foreign-language award each year, but only five are nominated. As for “Silence of Neto,” I’m trying to find out what the Wikipedia contributor meant by saying it “was not accepted.” That might mean the film didn’t make the list of five nominees; or maybe that the film was disqualified after it was submitted. (That doesn’t happen often, but it does happen occasionally.) I will let you know when I find out.
      — Tim Gray

  2. Jose says:

    This is not Guatemala’s first time ever to submit to the Oscars. The first time was in 1994 for The Silence of Neto. A little more research will be nice. Variety can not have those mistakes on the headlines.

  3. Ixcanul is a incandescent, memorable film made by the very talented Jayro Bustamane. Yet to say Ixcanul is the first Guatemalan film to be chosen to as an Acsdemy Award entry would be incorrect. I should know. My film, “The Silence of Neto,” was Guatemala’s first entry in 1994 for the 67th Academy Awards. I hope you will correct your article.

  4. A.D. says:

    Guatemala is actually submitting a film for the second time. They sent Luis Argueta’s “El silencio de Neto” in 1994. This is their first submission in over twenty years.

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