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In spite of being a movie out of print and not in the NYT filmography for the director, and in spite of being made with a low budget before the days of inexpensive digital processing, this is a very strong movie, based on the book of the same name, and taking the view of a Mayan girl from the highlands of Guatemala. It reveals to the viewer a sequence of information just as the information became available to the girl, so the movie is a process of discovery. If you know the history of the Guatemalan 36 year war (1960 - 1996) and if you have read the Nobel Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu, then you will already have this information, and yet the movie will still shock and disturb and move you with indigenous visions. Don't see it with friends if you do not want them to see you cry.
We watched this in Spanish class, after having read the script in the form of a text-book(complete with questions). I hate to do this, but I feel compelled to be objective; and for the record, no, I did not expect, nor do I require everything I see to be, Oscar material. Having not read the original novel, and since I have not done research about this, I can't comment on how good an adaptation it is, nor how authentic it is(what with the odd of the two twists... the one that wasn't pretty obvious... maybe it is extremely close to what actually happened, as truth is sometimes stranger than fiction). Now that I've learned so much about what happened in Guatemala in the lessons, I know that it is an important story that we need to be more aware of. I think it deserves a better film. While I am not sure what the budget was, I think the problem is the skill of those in charge. The editing is jarring(particularly when going from one scene to the next), and I barely ever believed that the animals and the people were near one another(the most atrocious example being the dimly lit grandfather and the snake in bright... where was it meant to come from, inside that cave, anyway?). Exposition is delivered with no attempts at hiding it a couple of places. The overall arc is reasonable, it's just not terribly engaging. There is occasional good photography, and the acting(in spite of how nice they are about enunciating in all situations, including crying) can be great. For educational purposes, this is sufficient; it's(the version we got, at least) merely 83 minutes long, it's in the dialect they speak down there and it's factual. There is a bit of disturbing content and hints of violence, as well as brief strong language in this. I recommend this solely to teachers and their students. 5/10
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