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.”
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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.