Ixcanul (DVD) – Movie Review
Follow Genre: Drama
Director: Jayro Bustamante
Distributor: Cinéart
Duration: 88 minutes

Ixcanul (DVD) – Movie Review

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Good: Topical theme
Bad: Slow development
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Rating: 5.7/10 (3 votes cast)

Ixcanul is yet another promising non-English film that Cinéart brought out this year. With wins at the Berlinale and Film Festival Gent, our expectations were high. Anyway, prizes or not, it’s the topic that made us wonder the most. A young girl forced to marry, it’s something that is still quite common in certain areas of the world. Of course, as the description of the movie already stated, it seems that things will not follow a predetermined path.


María (María Mercedes Coroy) is a 17 year old Mayan girl who lives in Guatemala near the volcano Ixcanul. Together with her parents, she works at a coffee plantation. The leader of the workers in this plantation, Ignatio (Justo Lorenzo), is very fond of her  and one day, when his family and María’s are having dinner together, he asks for her hand. Unlike one would expect, María seems to have no objections to this arranged marriage. What her family doesn’t know though, is that she secretly has something going on with Pepe (Marvin Coroy), who also works at the plantation. He dreams of a life away from there, behind the volcano, in the United States. María would love to get out of there too. Her ambitions are not as high as those of Pepe, as she just wants to flee to the city, instead of taking the long and dangerous trip to the US, but when Pepe concocts a plan, she asks him to take her with him. Nonetheless, all of a sudden Pepe is gone, leaving María behind. Around the same time, María also finds out that she is pregnant with Pepe’s baby. It’s a secret she will have to keep for as long as possible, as Ignatio will probably not feel inclined to marry her like this when he comes back from his business trip in the city.

If you’re looking for a film that has the flow of an average western film, you will be sadly disappointed. Ixcanul moves at a very slow pace, with all the ‘action’ only happening at the very end of the film. This might be somewhat annoying at times, but it also gives the film a sense of calm, and the time to fully develop. The scenes are often shot using just a few different camera angles, if any. The camera is mounted in a fixed position for the biggest part of the movie, only slowly panning when certain scenes truly need a bit of movement. The camera is mounted in a fixed position for the biggest part of the movie, only slowly panning when certain scenes truly need a bit of movement. Sometimes entire scenes are shot in just one or two camera angles, which means that the people who are talking don’t always come into view when they do so. It takes some getting used to, and sometimes it does get a bit bothersome, but overall, it’s not really an issue. Despite the limited amount of camera angles and movement, the quality of the images is rather good and makes up for quite a lot.

Ixcanul 1

The main actresses María Mercedes Coroy and María Telón both come from the region around the Ixcanul volcano, as do most of the others. They are both unschooled actresses, yet they do quite a good job to make the story convincing. They speak the Mayan language and were brought up in the Mayan culture, which does really show in the film. Somehow, because the film is almost completely in Mayan, it makes it all more authentic and real.

The extra ‘Ixcanul at the Berlinale’ is a clip of about ten minutes in which the director talks about his film, mainly in the light of the International Film Festival in Berlin, where it won a Silver Bear. Jayro Bustamante talks about why the film is so important, and why it is so important for these women to be heard. Also the trip to Berlin itself was worth mentioning, as none of the actors had ever been on a plane, let alone to Europe. It might be a cliché kind of extra, but truth be told, it does help to appreciate the film more.


Ixcanul gives you an insight into the life of the Maya in Guatemala, and the difficulties women encounter. At the same time, you also get to know the Mayan culture just a little bit. The actresses do a wonderful job, certainly considering they are no professionals. The pace of the movie is quite slow and the camera angles a bit limited, which might not please everyone, but overall, it is definitely worth the watch.

Ixcanul 2


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Ixcanul (DVD) - Movie Review, 5.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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