Unrecorded Spirits: Life in Mayan Guatemala
Unrecorded Spirits: Life in Mayan Guatemala is a film conveying the experience of the Mayan K’iché in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Epidemiological and anthropological research and experience covering years have resulted in an unprecedented degree of access to this region and its people. The film builds on this research and experience by collaborating and presenting stories directly from the people, from throughout the society, including Mayan ceremonies and practices for the very first time. A fundamental objective is to present the life and stories of this region in a manner that insiders and outsiders can access and understand, this includes film iterations in English, Spanish with K’iché, internet access of materials, and an open discourse with participants who share an understanding of the beauty and pain that exist in this special place. Filming from the Day of the Dead until the End of the Mayan Calendar this is an exploration of the people and environment of a distinct culture in a singular time in its existence.
Setting: Nahualá, Sololá, Guatemala
Nahualá is a 100% indigenous Mayan K‘iche’ municipality located in the rural, western highlands of Guatemala. This community is the largest of its kind and continues a culture and tradition dating back centuries. Relatively isolated until the 1970s the completion of the Pan American highway brought a major increase in outside influence, including the horror of “la violencia” of the national conflict (1960-1996). The past decades have resulted in mixed blessings of increased access to education and technology along with a population expansion major economic pressure. Contending with the socioeconomic problems of malnutrition, poverty, unemployment, alcohol abuse and pervasive marginalization, this culture, wholly unique in its historical connection and maintenance is at a critical juncture.
Producer and Director: Fotis Kanteres
Fotis Kanteres is an epidemiologist, anthropologist, writer, photographer, linguist and filmmaker who was worked and studied in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Africa. He has conducted field research projects in Namibia (HIV/AIDS), and Guatemala on behalf of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Toronto. His long-term research project in Guatemala (2005-2011) focused on malnutrition, alcohol abuse and domestic violence among Mayan K’iché in the Western Highlands; including collaboration with local and government organizations and individuals. This research has resulted in several peer reviewed scientific publications, as well as provided the basis for film projects, which lead to acceptance and guidance at the Werner Herzog Rogue Film School (Los Angeles 2012). All work can be explored at www.fotiskanteres.com.
Filming will take place from the Day of the Dead (Nov 1) until the End of the Mayan Calendar (Dec 21). Filming will be divided into 2 sections by the celebration of the town Patron Saint Santa Catarina (Nov 25), allowing for organization, planning and editing. The film will allow for more exposition than a strict narrative, people will be asked to tell the stories they feel relevant and comfortable with, the narrative arc will follow the linear path between the major events leading to the End of the Mayan Calendar. There are however main people involved such as Pascualino Tahay a Broadcaster, musician, teacher, translator, and natural anthropologist, who provides Guidance and Translation and several supporting subjects and interviews including Mayan elders and Spirit Guides, Community and Religious Leaders, Medical Professionals and life long community members. Many of the people participating in the film, for interviews or providing contacts, have been known to Fotis for several years, either professionally or personally. The final product will not be a single film, but a film, with a vast amount of supplemental materials including extended full interviews and scenes, as the average interview length is over an hour, as are much of the filming scenes. This will allow viewers of differing interests the opportunity to go even further into the subject matter and experiences. There is also a concurrent photographic presentation incorporating photographs from the filming.
A fundamental objective of this film project is to present the life and stories of the Mayan K’iché in a manner that people within and and outside of the region and culture can access, understand and appreciate. The End of the Mayan calendar has provided an unprecedented amount of global focus here. However ‘end of the world proclamations’ add nonsense and ignore the great complexity and serious challenges, that may in fact provide an end to this historic culture. Incorporating film, video, photography, and the power of multimedia Internet, this project may be able to convey a substantial amount of information and experience to the people within the region, country and world. The potential impact for this project is substantial and necessary, as this is a wholly unique time for such an undertaking to reach the widest possible assorted interested people. This region also finds itself experiencing a great deal of challenge requiring support, be it development, financial, or economic. The situation is complex, difficult and requires an approach and further contact that recognizes and respects these components. My work is not enough, and requires much more – this is my attempt to bridge informational and cultural divides and to have visions and dreams realized.
Filming, already into the 4th week, will last approximately 6 weeks, with 4 weeks of immediate editing and production. The initial goal is for a completed version of approximately 60 minutes for submission to the Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival for January 11th. This will be the first of a series of international festival and broadcast submissions. As public distribution is often prohibited for such submissions distribution to funders is planned for May 1st 2013, including the addition to the funding ‘perks’. Note: personal requests for advance receipt of funding ‘perks’ will be considered within reason.
The funding sought is $10,000. This funding goes direct to the equipment, travel, living, and production. To this point the film has been funded by Fotis Kanteres with generous non financial support of friends and family. Filming is half complete, with the first phase elapsing the Day of the Dead to the Day of the Patron Saint Santa Catarina (November 1st-25th) the remaining period Burning of the spirits to the End of the Mayan Calendar (December 6th-22nd). All non filming time is devoted to pre and post production (planning and editing). Production has been incredibly effective, fruitful and powerful resulting in the preview presentation and supporting production stills.
This and does not reflect the years of preparation and work, and is just enough to help make this dream a reality. This amount is essentially allowing this film the opportunity to fully develop, for myself to see beyond completion and realize wide distribution.
This film is already guaranteed a reality this campaign is the difference between a damaging birth and a safe fostered adolescence and future.
All support is appreciated and provides further life to this project.
How to participate and contribute
Participation and contribution in this undertaking comes in two forms.
First, you can share this film and supporting materials, including this campaign with direct contact or emails, including social media (e.g. facebook, twitter) with individuals, artists, academics, projectionists, broadcasters, groups, organizations, or institutions (e.g. universities, radio, print, blogs) that have or could have an interest or passion in the subject matter of the film. This may also include the development of events (e.g. special or public screenings and presentations).
Second, direct participation in the funding and contribution to the Indiegogo campaign.
Funders will receive a series graduated perks, directly based on the project and community.
Women wearing Mayan Huipil
Women using Mayan utility cloth (Sut', Panuelo)