It is a living poem with breathtaking cinematography and well-crafted magical realism.
Although Maria is only seventeen and should be preparing for her “Quinceañera,” she is preparing for an arranged wedding.
In many countries, it is okay for a young girl to marry a mature and wealthy man: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China are examples where honor is more important than love, choice, or freedom.
In the Oscar-nominated “Water,” Deepa Mehta illustrates how young girls are forced into marriage with older men in India — the beauty of this Canadian production makes us forget the horrors experienced by all those young little women.
In Atiq Rahimi’s “The Patient Stone,” a young Afghan woman tells the truth to her older, decrepit husband as catharsis against oppression.
In “Ixcanul,” Maria’s issues and decisions are similar to the ones faced by millions of women, even in developed countries: anxiety, first-time sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, single motherhood, post-partum depression, and so on.
In the movie “Grandma,” by Paul Weitz (“About a Boy” and “American Pie”), in California, Lily Tomlin’s granddaughter is experiencing the same situation as Maria does in Guatemala. The only difference is that the American film is viewed as a comedy, and the one from Central America is viewed as a drama.
Some of those rituals are reminiscent of the big Hollywood epic movies set in the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, Africa, and South America, where the spectacular landscape and human tragedy blend together with captivating and hypnotic images conveying deep emotions.
Human exploitation has been going on for centuries, not only in Mayan communities but also in other isolated parts of the World.
With such conditions, it is hard to have dreams — there is no dreaming in this town when the World is against you.
The little money they earn harvesting coffee is spent on food and getting drunk. People struggle to survive in this environment — reaching for dreams is not an option.
Maria’s dream is to go to the big city and follow El Pepe (Marvin Coroy) to the United States, but destiny and her condition as a Mayan woman will play a significant role in crushing her dreams.
In their community, everyone speaks Mayan, but in the big city, no one else does. Ignacio is the only bilingual person translating what is convenient to him, betraying his own people.
“Ixcanul” reflects the hunger for justice the Guatemalan people have. Maria and her Mayan community deserve to be treated with fairness.
It also shows the poverty and the oppression of the indigenous communities, victims of the abuse of authority by their own government.
They deserve justice and respect from the rest of the World.
The terrific performances make “Ixcanul” a solid contender to reach for one of the five nominated films for Best Foreign Language this year.