Back to IndieWire

LatinoBuzz: Exclusive Interview with ‘Ixcanul’ filmmaker Jayro Bustamante

LatinoBuzz: Exclusive Interview with ‘Ixcanul’ filmmaker Jayro Bustamante

’’There are stories that you can’t let go of, that bind you when you stumble across them and it’s necessary that they are told to untie a little
bit of the history.’’

LatinoBuzz spoke to 37-year old Guatemalan director Jayro Bustamante about his first feature film, “Ixcanul.” The film recently received the Silver Bear
Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlinale for a film that “opens new perspectives on cinematic art,” making it the first film from Guatemala to ever do so. Its
success at Berlin proved to be a good omen for Bustamante when Ixcanul was awarded the Mayahuel prize for Best Latin American film and Best Director at
the 30th International Film Festival of Guadalajara in México. “Ixcanul” is the story about María, a 17 year-old Mayan Kaqchikel girl that lives with her
parents in a coffee plantation on the side of an active volcano in Guatemala. Her hand in marriage has been promised to Ignacio while her heart is with
perpetual dreamer Pepe. Despite being an indigenous woman, María will try to change her destiny and believes the modern world she had always dreamt of will save her life.

Latinobuzz: Where was the idea born to write “Ixcanul”? Why did you want to tell this story?

It was born from the meeting with María, the real María. “Ixcanul” is a story extracted from the real life facts of this character, there is a large quantity
of fiction, but the problem, the cherry-on-top, of the film’s drama comes from Maria’s life, and when I met her I found out that I was standing in
front of a person who was in a completely powerless, but at the same time she was carrying a special wisdom to be able to live beyond that. This was the
beginning stages.

LatinoBuzz: Ixcanul means the force inside the volcano…

Yes, Ixcanul means volcano. The Mayan languages are conceptual and the concept is this force that boils within and that just wants to release and explode.

You, yourself as a filmmaker, what do you think is this inner force is that compels you to tell stories?

It is something that I have always liked doing and there are stories that you can’t let go of, that bind you when you stumble across them and it’s
necessary that they are told to untie a little bit of the history.

LatinoBuzz: Tell me a little bit about the actors, I understand you used people from the community where you filmed, how was directing non-professional actors? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

There wasn’t a desire to use non actors. I began looking and I found out that there weren’t many actors, especially ‘’Cachiqueles’’ – they are very few.
One of the big Cachiqueles actresses from Guatemala is María Telón, who played the ‘’Juana’’ role, she is part of a street theater group that is quite
politically active for women’s rights and the indigenous people. She was a professional actress and the rest of the casting we used other actors that
worked in theater and the people that weren’t actors we found through a casting that we did at a market place. The truth is that I never made the
comparison if they had been professional or not, I simply respected what experience they had or not. We came up with a technique for everyone and that was
the one that gave us the result on screen. I’m very satisfied with the work of the actors.

LatinoBuzz: What challenges did you face during the shoot?

All! All the challenges! It was really very, very precarious work, We were shooting in an active volcano. The volcano did erupt and we had to evacuate. We
also didn’t have water either nor much electricity. Really they all were challenges. We were completely multicultural, there were people of all
nationalities, but in the end I believe that despite all these obstacles there was also a fuerza, – there wasn’t really an obstacle that was
stopping us or that was causing us to change strategy. Instead they were obstacles that were served for us to construct our own plan and that’s what we

LatinoBuzz: How did the financing of the film happen?

It was complicated because Guatemala has no funds, no aids and people still don’t have awareness that cinema can be important, not only for the people who
make film, but for an entire country, for an entire industry, for communication. We started the project personally funded with bank loans and really taking
all the risks, This loan enabled us to reach the first cut but we still couldn’t finish the film. Then we partnered with a French company as a
co-production and then we began to get international funds. Region Cinergia was one of the first that helped us out and then the
other funds started coming together and we managed to finish it. We started to work in a precarious way and were lucky to be able to finish it in the best
laboratorios with the best team that helped me very much that in the end I have to emphasize on all the hard work my team did.

LatinoBuzz: What is the current state of film in Guatemala?

Jayro: It’s in total state of emergency. There are many filmmakers wanting to make film, there are many doing so too. There is alot of generosity from the people but many complaints because there is no help. I do think that the problem beyond that there is no help, because you have to understand that when a place is so poor, you can’t ask the same money that you would in a country that is rich. The problem is that there is an indifference of the government towards the film industry, but I think it’s a normal thing because it’s a young industry and I think that’s the indifference, because they still haven’t realized that things are beginning to work. Now there are several films that are in the festival circuit and then there are films that aren’t going to festivals but are doing well in theaters domestically in Guatemala. I think that people will start to wake up and realize it is a country that wants to do things, but just going slower because of the history we have.

LatinoBuzz: Approximately, how many films are made in Guatemala each year?

From what I know personally, I would say that they should be between one and six films a year.

LatinoBuzz: And film schools?

There is a film school that is also a production house and manages the only film festival that is internationally known. It is a pretty young but this
school is quite important because it is like, the sole focus of cinema in the country. Now there are more people graduating, there are more people starting
to support one another. All those waves will move something on the mainland at some point.

LatinoBuzz: What reception has “Ixcanul” received?

In Guatemala the reception was very generous, the press has also been very generous and people are waiting for the film. I don’t know how many people and
countries are waiting for the film, but those who come to talk to me haven’t insulted me yet but instead have come to congratulate me (laughs)!

Renee Ylizaliturri is an independent film and television producer from Mexico and is member of the Asociacion Mexicana de Cineastas Independientes.
Part of her work is producing political campaigns as a media strategist and consultant. @Renylizaliturri

LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of
presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow[AT]LatinoBuzz on Twitter and Facebook

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,