Guatamalian director Jayro Bustamante’s first feature has Maria, a 17-year-old Mayan peasant girl, betrothed by her parents to the foreman of a local farm, made pregnant by a coffee harvester and hoping to escape with him to the States. When he leaves without her, her dream of freedom evaporates.
Bustamante, who lives in Paris, recreates the hard life of the Mayans with real understanding. There are no heroes or villains, but just the sense that the indigenous culture faced by the girl, with its rituals and ancestral beliefs, is not enough for the younger generation. Maria is not treated badly but has the sense that her likely life will not be properly fulfilled.
He secures striking performances from both Maria Mercedes Coroy and her fond mother Maria Telon and clearly respects both equally. They live a simple life near a volcano but the constant suggestion is that there is another world on the other side of the mountain. It’s a simple film but by no means a simplistic one.