• Icon Feed
  • Icon Twitter
  • Icon Facebook
  • Icon Print
  • Icon Mail

Behind the Volcano

By Oriana Franceschi

The earth around the volcano is thick and black. Seventeen-year-old María and her mother Juana kneel in it to pray, wrapped in colourful hand-me-down fabrics that extend intricately into their hair.


The earth around the volcano is thick and black. Seventeen-year-old María and her mother Juana kneel in it to pray, wrapped in colourful hand-me-down fabrics that extend intricately into their hair. They light candles and stay there through the sunset, while the volcano sprinkles its dark, dry rain over the Guatemalan coffee plantation on which they live and work. Ixcanul is the name of the volcano, and of this first feature from writer/director Jayro Bustamante that premiered in the Berlinale Competition.

Some tell-tale months later, hot and swollen with pregnancy in the steamroom, María, played by a sullen but luminous María Mercedes Croy, resembles the volcano: full of life and, Juana tells her, of magic. Magic that can heal a sick chicken with the touch of a finger and expel snakes from an unsewn field of corn. But, like the volcano, María’s pregnancy poses the possibility of both magic and destruction.

María is to marry Ignacio, a local widower, surveyor of the plantation, and owner of the village’s only car. In truth, María is less like the volcano than she is the pig that she and her mother slaughter to feed her would-be husband and his family. Bustamante critiques a society in which women are still raised to breed, sacrificed to secure the prosperity of her family. When Ignacio learns that she is pregnant by a local boy, he will doubtless cancel the wedding and force her father off the land.

But María’s lust is for adventure, her desire to escape drives her every action. “What’s behind the volcano?“, she asks her mother. She has heard that it is a place where everybody has a car, even the streets are lit with electricity, and money is abundant as the long green leaves of the coffee plant. María will learn that it holds nothing but cold weather and an incomprehensible tongue. Making contact with it will drive María back among the pigs, crouching over the slaughtered mother’s offspring with her hair hanging loose around her white nightdress. And before her Ixcanul, that magic mountain, that malevolent idol, will groan on eternally.



Parse error: syntax error, unexpected 'new' (T_NEW) in /data/storage02/talentpress.org/include/talentpress/lib/xorc/div/he_tools.class.php on line 249